Coronavirus impact felt locally

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In the matter of just a week, daily life for Clayton County residents has changed drastically due to the threat of the novel coronavirus. At Great River Care Center in McGregor, residents are now video chatting with loved ones since in-person visits are currently restricted. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

In the matter of just a week, daily life for Clayton County residents has changed drastically due to the threat of the novel coronavirus. Schools and public offices have shuttered, health care facilities have restricted visitors, and many events and social gatherings have been canceled or postponed in an effort to curb potential transmission.

As of Monday night, March 16, Iowa had 23 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including two reported Sunday from Allamakee County. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), one individual is a middle-age adult between 41 and 60 years old, while the second is a child under 18. Both cases are related to international travel.

On Saturday, the IDPH reported the state’s first case of community spread, which occurs when individuals have been infected with the virus and cannot specifically identify the source of the infection, or do not know how or where they became infected.

“The biggest message is don’t panic,” said Nancy Yelden, community health nurse with Unity Point Health - Clayton County Visiting Nurse Association. She encourages individuals to continue practicing good hygiene by thoroughly washing their hands and covering coughs and sneezes. People are also encouraged to practice social distancing and should stay home if they are ill.

Symptoms of COVID-19 in people who have been exposed can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

Yelden said anyone who believes they may have contracted COVID-19 should contact their medical provider. 

“You need to communicate with your physician. They will ask if you’ve traveled out of the country or an area with ongoing spread, what your symptoms are and if you’ve been in contact with someone [who has COVID-19],” she explained. “The medical provider will then determine the best course of action.”

“Be sure to call beforehand,” Yelden added. “Don’t just come in.”

Facilities restrict visitors

Over the past week, all local medical providers—including Crossing Rivers Health in Prairie du Chien, Guttenburg Municipal Hospital, MercyOne Elkader Medical Center and Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon—have limited visitors in order to lessen the risk to staff, patients and community members. People are asked to keep the length of visits to a minimum, and individuals 12 and under—or even 18 and under in some cases—are not allowed. Do not visit if you are sick.

Facilities like Great River Care Center in McGregor and Garden View Place in Monona have also restricted all non-essential visits in order to keep residents safe. Staff have worked to provide alternative forms of communication so residents can stay in touch with loved ones.

At Great River Care Center, residents can video chat on a big screen TV from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If you would like to set up a time to chat with your loved one or friend, or have a question about the schedule, you can Facebook message the Great River Care Center page or call Debbie at (563) 873-3527. A “family time” cellphone is also available for use, in addition to the facility’s regular phone.

MFL MarMac closes

Over the weekend, IDPH said institution leaders and event organizers should begin to act on their contingency plans related to large gatherings. Iowans should not hold or attend large gatherings, and should consider making adjustments for smaller gatherings with high risk groups. 

On Sunday evening, the Centers for Disease Control updated its mass gathering guidance to postpone for the next eight weeks any events with 50 or more people. The goal is to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus.

MFL MarMac Schools closed on Monday, based on recommendations by Gov. Kim Reynolds. 

“Based on new information from the Iowa Department of Public Health, now is the time to move to the next level of response,” Reynolds stated on Sunday. “I am now recommending that all Iowa schools close for a period of four weeks to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

As part of the closure, MFL MarMac Superintendent Dale Crozier said there will be no practice or activities, and no students are to be at the school for any reason.

“More information will be provided in the next couple of days as we move forward together,” he noted.

The district has already taken steps to assure students remain fed while they are away from school. Beginning Tuesday, March 17, MFL MarMac began offering free grab and go breakfast and lunch for children 18 and younger at all communities in the district. Students in need of grab and go meals are invited to pick them up at designated locations at 8 a.m. and noon, Monday through Friday, during the shutdown. Sites include:

•McGregor: school lunchroom, in front of McGregor Public Library and Breezy Point Shelter

•Marquette: Marquette Bench Diamond/Park and parking lot under the bridge

•Farmersburg: city park and St. John’s Lutheran Church parking lot

•Luana: St. John’s Lutheran Church parking lot and park by the post office

•Monona: School lunchroom and community center parking lot

A release from the school said additional sites may be added. Individuals who deliver the meals will practice social distancing as recommended by IDPH, so students will not be permitted to stay and eat their meals at the sites.

Rural students, families who are immunocompromised or those with illness who are unable to pick up meals at one of the designated locations can contact Brandi at (563) 880-1266 to request delivery. Please be mindful that the school does not have the resources to provide deliveries to every household, so use this request only if needed.

Additionally, the district will have SnackPacks available. Students in need are encouraged to take one to two SnackPacks each week from a meal site location for supplementation of meals. These will be provided on the honor system.

County offices close

On Monday, the Clayton County Board of Supervisors announced all county offices will be closed to the public due to COVID-19 and public health concerns. However, the law enforcement center and services will continue with extra protocols in place and essential court proceedings will still taking place. The board of supervisors recommends suspending all public gatherings at this time. 

“Our goal is to protect the citizens and employees of Clayton County,” said a press release. “Our employees will continue to perform essential county services by appointment. Please contact the department by phone if you have questions regarding services.”

County departments and phone numbers are listed below:

•Auditor’s Office: (563) 245-1106 (suspending passport services)

•Treasurer’s Office: (563) 245-1807 (suspending driver’s license services)

•Driver’s License: (563) 245-3200

•Recorder’s Office: (563) 245-2710 (Please use the U.S. Postal Service for vital records: birth, death, marriage. Use mail service or e-submit for real estate.)

•Assessor’s Office: (563) 245-2533

•Clerk of Court: (563) 245-2204

•Law Enforcement Center: (563) 245-2422 (suspending fingerprinting, inmate visitation, work release and gun permits)

•Secondary Roads: (563) 245-1782 (garbage service will remain open)

•General Assistance: (563) 245-1865

•Veteran’s Services: (563) 245-1865

•Visiting Nurses and Public Health: (563) 245-1145

•Unity Point at Home: (563) 245-2064

•Community Action: (563) 245-2452

•Substance Abuse: (563) 245-1546

•Emergency Management: (563) 245-3004

•Environmental Health & Zoning: (563) 245-2451 (suspending private well testing, septic and well permitting emergency situations only. The board of adjustment meeting for March 17 is canceled.)

•Board of Supervisors: (563) 245-2166

•Osborne Nature Center: (563) 245-1516 (all conservation programs and events cancelled until advertised otherwise)

McGregor City Hall closes

As of March 17, McGregor City Hall closed to the public until further notice. The office will be open and personnel will continue to do normal duties. If you have business that requires contact, please call (563) 873-3795 or email citymcgr@mchsi.com and your business will still be handled in a proficient manner. 

Libraries close

The McGregor Public Library is now closed until further notice. Murphy Helwig Library in Monona and the Farmersburg Public Library will both be closed for two weeks.

No public masses

The Archdiocese of Dubuque announced Monday that all public celebrations of holy mass are cancelled. Father Nils de Jesús Hernández will offer two private masses—one in English and one in Spanish—for all parishioners in the Trinity Cluster from the chapel. These masses will be live streamed and not open to the public.

Meal sites close

Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NEI3A) made the decision to close all of its senior centers and meals sites starting March 17, until further notice.  Individuals who attend the sites will be contacted and given the option to receive a home-delivered meal. Please contact NEI3A at (800) 779-8707 if you need further information.

Impact on businesses

As of Monday night, there was no state-wide requirement asking bars and restaurants to close for in-restaurant dining—or close period. Many local establishments are offering more carry out options or restricting the number of patrons who can enter, in addition to increased cleaning efforts. 

The same goes for many other small businesses. Please check out their social media pages or contact them directly if you have questions.

Events on hold

The spread of COVID-19 has cancelled or postponed many events. Among those affected were:

•MFL MarMac Friends Helping Friends Winter Benefit - scheduled for March 20-21 and moved to May 8-9

•Clayton County Democratic Convention - scheduled for March 21, no new date set

•Marquette 100th Anniversary Celebration - scheduled for March 27-28, no new date set

•AMVETS Post #27 Fish Fry - scheduled for April 3, no new date set

•Effigy Mounds National Monument Winter Stories - postponed indefinitely, but the hiking trails remain open

Stay informed

To stay informed about COVID-19 in Iowa, visit idph.iowa.gov or call the state’s 2-1-1 hotline. If you or your loved ones exhibit symptoms, please contact your local health department or the Iowa Department of Public Health at 1-800-362-2736.

The North Iowa Times will do its best to keep the public informed through the print edition, our website at northiowatimes.com and our Facebook page. If you have information you’d like to share, please contact us at niteditor@mhtc.net, (563) 873-2210 or on Facebook messenger.

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