Life anything but normal during COVID-19 outbreak

Governor Kim Reynolds speaks to the media about response to the coronavirus pandemic at a news conference in Des Moines last week. (Iowa Newspaper Association pool photo)

Clayton County

has yet to record

first positive test


   MONONA — One week after strict measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, life is anything but normal in northern Clayton County and surrounding areas. Schools, churches and some businesses were forced to shut their doors due to the crisis, which through March 22 had struck 90 Iowans.

   Through Sunday, Clayton County had yet to record a positive test, though Allamakee County has recorded five cases and both Fayette and Winneshief Counties have seen one each. Wisconsin had recorded 383 coronavirus cases through Sunday, though none were in Crawford County (where Prairie du Chien is located).

   The Clayton County Healthcare Coalition issued an update Friday noting that “many more Iowans are likely to become ill in the coming weeks.”

   That statement proved true over the weekend, when the Iowa Department of Health announced 23 positive COVID-19 tests Saturday and 22 more Sunday. Fifteen additional positive tests were recorded Monday, including one in Allamakee County, while 19 new positive tests were announced Tuesday.

   The Healthcare Coalition noted that 80 percent of COVID-19 cases are mild to moderate and that victims would recover by getting rest and drinking plenty of fluids. It also recommends that victims isolate themselves from other family members as much as possible.

   “Additionally, if you are experiencing mild to moderate illness symptoms that are manageable at home, the Iowa Department of Public Health is not recommending you have a COVID-19 test or a work release from your medical provider,” the Coalition said while noting that individuals whose jobs fall into the essential personnel category may need to be tested according to their employers’ policies.

   “If you develop a temperature of 100.4 F or higher, your symptoms worsen or you experience shortness of breath, please call your medical provider or local hospital to be evaluated over the phone,” the Coalition said. “Your medical provider will determine if you need to be seen and/or receive a test. Please remember to call your medical clinic or local hospital before arriving as they may want you to enter thru a designated entrance to protect the other patients in the waiting rooms. If you experience a medical emergency, please call 911 or your local emergency room for guidance.”

   The Coalition recommended that people self-isolate if they have been on a cruise in the past 14 days, have traveled internationally to certain countries in the past 14 days or live with somebody who has either tested positive for COVID-19 or who has experienced symptoms of the disease.

Business Impacts

   Among the businesses hit hardest by the outbreak were bars and restaurants, which were permitted to serve only take-out meals, following a declaration by Gov. Kim Reynolds’ declaration of a Public Health Emergency. Fitness centers were also closed by the declaration while salons, barber shops and tatoo parlors were closed by a gubernatorial declaration Sunday.

   Several local establishments offered carry-outs, including MJ’s Bar and Grill, Monona, TJ’s Pizza, Monona, Maggie’s Diner and Old Man River, McGregor, and the St. Olaf Tavern. The disaster declaration also forced the Luana Recreation Center to close.

   Other businesses chose to voluntarily limit public exposure while continuing to operate, including NEIT and The Outlook, both of which closed their offices to the public last Wednesday (March 18).

School Impacts

   Local schools were locked up throughout the week and will be closed until at least April 13. MFL MarMac allowed parents to make appointments to pick up students’ essential items Thursday. Districts across the state received welcome news Monday when the Iowa Department of Education announced that they would receive relief from the state requirement for 1,080 hours or 180 days of instruction time. MFL MarMac Superintendent Dr. Dale Crozier said it was not an ideal situation but that it would allow seniors to graduate on time.

   “I see nothing stopping our seniors, who have met requirements to date, from timely graduation,” he said in a message to School District residents. “ That message has been communicated to us through the department of education.”

   Crozier added in the message sent Sunday (March 22) that school was closed through April 13 for sure and that he was unsure whether that time will be extended.

   Iowa law does not allow school districts to provide graded instructional time virtually or off campus, though it does allow districts to offer learning opportunities, which is something that MFL MarMac students can expect this week.

   “In the coming days our teachers are and will be reaching out to students with optional curriculum and programs that all students can utilize equally,” Crozier said. “Our staff is working diligently on this matter.”

   The school also provided “grab-and-go” breakfasts and lunches to students at sites throughout the district, with an estimated 250 students taking advantage of the program each day. The lunches were provided free of charge and were available to all students, regardless of income levels. The District initially distributed the meals twice daily before switching to a once-daily model later in the week. Beginning Monday (March 23), meals were to be distributed on Mondays and Thursdays at various locations thoughout the District.

   The Little Bulldog Childcare Center (Monona) and Dr. Clifford C. Smith Childcare Center (McGregor) remained open, though Crozier said there were fewer students using the centers. Initial plans were for the Little Bulldog Center to close last Tuesday (March 17), though that plan changed after Reynolds asked that daycare centers continue to serve their communities.

   Upper Iowa University (Fayette) announced that it would not hold an on-site commencement May 9 and will instead hold virtual ceremonies that day. Other universities, including Iowa, Iowa State and UNI, have announced that they will not be holding their usual commencement exercises.

Public Health requests personal protective equipment donations

   The Iowa Department of Public Health is urging businesses and organizations to donate personal protective equipment, or PPE, by contacting their local public health department and the county emergency management agency. These items can include gloves, gowns, eye protection and masks. Local public health and local emergency management officials will can work to address needs locally and beyond. Those interested in making donations should contact Clayton County Emergency Management.