COVID-19, now officially a pandemic, shuts down CR Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, puts UI on alert (updated)

UI Quick Care Clinic at Old Capitol Town Center, March 11, 2020. — Matt Steele/Little Village

Update: On Wednesday evening, the governor’s issued a press release stating another Iowan has tested positive for COVID-19. “[T]he new case is in an older adult (61 to 80 years) from Johnson County and was on the same Egyptian cruise as other positive cases,” according to the written statement.

That brings the total of people diagnosed with the disease in Iowa to 14. Thirteen of those individuals live in Johnson County, the other lives in Pottawatomie County.

The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Society of Cedar Rapids — better known as SaPaDaPaSo — prides itself on never calling off its annual March 17 parade on account of bad weather. But this year, the organization has run into a problem bigger than cold or rain. SaPaDaPaSo announced on Wednesday morning it is canceling its 2020 parade out of coronavirus concerns.

“Our focus, as always, is for the health and well being of our participants and spectators of the parade and the citizens of our community,” SaPaDaPaSo President Carol Bryant said in a statement. “With the current health situation we believe this is the responsible decision.”

Public health authorities around the country have been stressing that large public gatherings can facilitate the spread of the coronavirus (which causes the disease COVID-19), commonly passed from person to person by respiratory droplets expelled when sneezing or coughing.

The society consulted with the Linn County Health Department before making its decision.

“If it was our parents, our children, our grandchildren, that came downtown and picked up something, we’d be devastated,” Bryant said. “And you know, it’s a parade, it’s not life or death, you know, we’ll have it next year, and after 45 years, who would have ever thought.”

Cedar Rapids isn’t the only city where the St. Patrick’s Day parade has been canceled to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Chicago will reportedly announce the cancellation of its parade on Wednesday. Boston has already canceled, and Ireland has canceled all parades throughout the country.

Bryant said SaPaDaPaSo will refund all the parade entry fees, and has firm plans to hold its parade again in 2021.

Cedar Rapids has had an annual St. Patrick’s Day parade since 1976, when “The First and Last, One of a Kind, Ecumenical, St. Patrick’s Day Parade” marched a very short route through downtown after WMT Radio host Dick Hardiman began promoting the idea of a local parade.

The following year, Hardiman helped organize another parade. “The parade was twice as long, (a full 10 minutes…),” according to SaPaDaPaSo’s site.

After the 1977 parade, supporters formed the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Society, which has sponsored the parade ever since.

The parade has grown impressively over the years. In 1976, its biggest attraction was a two-headed calf from Benton County. Last year, it featured two presidential candidates, Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

There have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in Cedar Rapids or Linn County. A total of 13 Iowans have currently tested positive for the disease; 12 of them are Johnson County residents and the remaining patient lives in Pottawatomie County. All the Johnson County patients were on a cruise in Egypt that lasted from Feb. 17 to March 2, and returned to Iowa on March 3.

Regents order Iowa universities to move to online classes

On Tuesday, the Iowa Board of Regents ordered the state’s three public universities — the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa — “to move as quickly as possible towards the ability to deliver instruction virtually.”

“Specific information will be provided by the individual universities no later than 8 a.m. on Thursday, March 12th,” according to the board.

Grinnell College has already announced its campus will not be reopening for students after spring break, and spring semester classes will continue online instead.

“Grinnell College has a two-week spring break — and so we started to understand very quickly that we weren’t just doubling the amount of time, exposure and risk — we were really exponentially putting our community at risk,” Dean Ann Harris told Radio Iowa.

UI Quick Care Clinics takes step to limit exposure for staff and patients

In an attempt to limit the potential spread has also led to the University of Iowa Quick Care Clinics posted signs warning: “Do not enter if you have flu-like symptoms or health care concerns related to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).”

Those patients are instructed to “return home and schedule a video visit through My Chart or call 319-384-9010.”

A critical case at UIHC

On Wednesday morning, the Des Moines Register reported, “The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics says it has admitted a patient who has the novel coronavirus, and the patient is in critical condition.”

UIHC was aware of the patient’s condition prior to the individual’s arrival, according to UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran.

“All proper procedures and precautions were followed during the admission process, and staff members were properly protected,” Gunasekaran told the Register in an email. “Our preparation ensured that the patient did not come in contact with anyone who was not properly protected.”

WHO declares a pandemic

Late Wednesday morning, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially designated COVID-19 a pandemic. It is the first time the international organization declared a pandemic since the H1N1 flu outbreak in 2009. That disease eventually infected almost 25 percent of the world’s population.

“Pandemic” is the term for a new disease that has spread worldwide, according to WHO’s definition.

So far, there have 118,000 case of COVID-19 diagnosed in 114 countries.

For general information

The Iowa Department of Public Health has set up a hotline for people with questions and concerns about COVID-19, which can be reached by dialing 211. The department is also updating information as necessary on its site. As of 6 p.m on Tuesday, public health agencies in Iowa were monitoring 112 people for potential exposure to the disease, and were awaiting the results of 27 tests.

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