COVID-19: Updates from city, state, federal public health officials

COVID-19: Updates from city, state, federal public health officials

Here are the latest updates from local, state and federal government officials about the new coronavirus and COVID-19 disease outbreak.

As of March 27, the Iowa Department of Public Health has reported zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Clay County. One confirmed case has been reported in Dickinson County, its first. There have been 235 confirmed cases in Iowa and three deaths.

Read Spencer area business and organization updates here. Follow Spencer Signal on Facebook and Twitter for updates as soon as they are available.

View updates by day:

Helpful COVID-19 and new coronavirus resources

March 27

Mayor stresses “stay home,” says to expect more COVID-19 cases in Iowa

Spencer officials believe that an increase in the availability of tests for COVID-19 will result in more cases being confirmed across the state.

“We will no doubt see increased cases in the state of Iowa,” Mayor Kevin Robinson said Friday in a live town hall on Facebook. “This is due to, again, more testing being done, as well as potential spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

Robinson added that he wanted Spencer residents to be prepared for that increase.

“I want you to expect that, but at the same time, now is the time in which we need to continue to control our behavior, our interactions with people,” he said.

Continue reading.

Spencer Medical Community Offers Option of Virtual Appointments

Press release

Being cared for by a health professional can be challenging during the current need for social distancing due to the COVID-19 health emergency. Locally, Avera Medical Group Spencer (AMGS), Spencer Hospital and Milford Family Care have options for telehealth visits with its providers, when appropriate.

“Our healthcare team is excited to be able to offer virtual visits, when appropriate for the patient and his or her health needs,” remarked Dr. Amanda Young, family practice physician with AMGS. “I’ve used this system with my patients several times this week and it works beautifully. It’s a safe way to see patients in the comfort on their own homes and meet their healthcare needs.”

At Spencer Hospital, virtual appointments are also being used by rehabilitative services for some patients, as well as for diabetic education consultations and maternal child health visits for existing Community Health clients.

Patients of the respective clinics and services need to call first and during that phone call, it will be determined by healthcare staff if the patient’s visit is appropriate for telehealth. If so, an appointment time will be scheduled and a website link is sent to the patient. No special applications are necessary and the internet link works on smart phones, tablets and computers.

“Some patients will still need to be physically seen, especially if they need a test conducted,” Dr. Young explained. “However, telehealth is a wonderful solution for some patients, allowing them to have an important medical appointment, therapy, or consultation without leaving their homes.  It also supports our community’s need to respect the critical importance of social distancing.”

Sue Terrell, nurse practitioner at Sioux Rapids Family Care, and Jamie Billings, nurse practitioner at Milford Family Care, will also available for virtual appointments.

Clinic Phone Numbers:

Avera Medical Group Spencer – (712) 264-3500
Milford Family Care – (712) 338-2461
Sioux Rapids Family Care – (712) 283-2723

March 26

COVID-19 case confirmed in Dickinson County

Lakes Regional Healthcare has confirmed a case of COVID-19 in Dickinson County.

This is the first confirmed case in Dickinson County and the first of any counties neighboring Clay County.

Hospital staff stated the patient, a man between the ages of 61 and 80, is stable, getting treatment and is in isolation.

Spencer clinic establishes separate respiratory clinic

Press release

Avera Medical Group Spencer (AMGS) has developed a respiratory clinic which features a separate entrance and is physically separated by a temporary wall from the rest of the clinic space, a plan implemented to isolate patients with potentially infectious illnesses from other patients seeking care.

“COVID – 19 symptoms are similar to influenza, RSV and other upper respiratory illnesses so it’s important to take extra precautions with all patients that present with these symptoms,” explained Dr. David Robison, family practice physician at Avera Medical Group Spencer.

Dr. Robison added: “It’s important patients call the clinic so our team can assess the appropriate plan of care over the phone, which could be either an appointment in the respiratory clinic or driving up for curb-side testing, or even a virtual visit online.”

Nate McCormick, AMGS clinic manager, said the idea for a separate respiratory clinic originated from a planning session held last week by the physicians and was implemented right away late last week. “It’s working extremely well,” McCormick said. “In fact, other clinics are developing similar care models.”

At this time, walk-in patients are not permitted for any health concern. All patients need to first call – (712) 264-3500 –  and during that conversation, a clinician will recommend the appropriate next steps.

Gov. Reynolds signs new proclamation continuing State Public Health Emergency Declaration 

Press release

DES MOINES –  Gov. Reynolds signed a new proclamation on March 26 continuing the State Public Health Emergency Declaration, suspending elective and nonessential medical and dental procedures, extending and expanding retail business closures, ordering health care facilities and nursing homes to engage in advanced health care screenings, and removing additional legal barriers to ensure a continued strong response to this disaster. 

Restaurants must now continue serving food and beverages to-go or via delivery orders only through April 7.

Fitness centers, swimming pools, salons, medical spas, barbershops, tattoo parlors, tanning facilities, massage therapy establishments, theaters, casinos, gaming facilities, senior citizen centers, adult day care facilities must all remain closed through April 7.

Social, community, spiritual, religious, recreational, leisure, and sporting gatherings and events of more than 10 people are hereby prohibited at all locations and venues, including but not limited to parades, festivals, conventions, and fundraisers through April 7. Planned large gatherings and events must be canceled or postponed until after termination of this disaster.

The governor’s proclamation extended closures to numerous retail businesses categories, too. Those include bookstores, clothing stores, shoe stores, jewelry stores, luggage stores, cosmetic stores, florists and furniture stores.

The closure order does not affect discount stores, grocery stores or pharmacies.

The state of public health disaster emergency shall expire on April 16, 2020, at 11:59 p.m., unless sooner terminated or extended by the governor.

Read the full text of the proclamation below or online here.

Spencer, Milford, Sioux Rapids clinics further restrict visitors

Press release

For the safety of patients and healthcare workers, new visitor restrictions are in place at three local clinics – Avera Medical Group Spencer, Milford Family Care and Sioux Rapids Family Care. 

Adult patients are not be allowed to bring guests into the clinic unless clinic staff deems there is a clinical reason for that guest (such as patient safety). Until the time that COVID-19 no longer poses a public health threat, all patients and guests will be screened. Patients with symptoms of fever over 100 degrees, cough or shortness of breath will be asked to leave the clinic and call the appropriate clinic. No guests will be allowed with these symptoms.

Exceptions to the visitor guidelines may include the following:

  • Children under the age of 18 may have an advocate, parent, or guardian. Underage siblings are not permitted to visit.
  • OB patients may have one partner for ultrasounds only. Other routine checks: no guests.
  • Patients with confusion, altered mental status, developmental delays, or agitation, where a family member or advocate can provide safety and support, may have 1 advocate/support person at the discretion of the care team.
  • Patients who require an escort for assistance related to mobility, interpretation, or health care decision making may have one additional assistance person.

Patients walking in for ancillary testing only should not be accompanied by a guest.

Advocates, parents and guests who meet the above criteria must also comply with the following instructions:

  • Either immediate family members, powers of attorney, guardians or patient representatives
  • No guests may be under 18 years of age, unless specified above.
  • Guests must be free of fever (by report or measured, if available) OR cough OR shortness of breath that has appeared in the last 14 days.
  • Except for transit to and from, guests are to stay in the clinic room for the duration of their visit.
  • Guests must follow staff instructions regarding hand washing and use of personal protective equipment

Remember, call your clinic first. 

  • Avera Medical Group Spencer – (712) 264-3500
  • Milford Family Care – (712) 338-2461
  • Sioux Rapids Family Care – (712) 283-2723

COVID-19 Call Center:

Hours of Operation: 7AM – 7PM, Monday-Friday
Local: (712) 264-6514
Toll Free: 1-(800)-848-0638

March 24

Dubuque County man first COVID-19 death confirmed in Iowa

Press release

DES MOINES – The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) learned late Tuesday of the first death associated with novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The individual was an older adult, 61-80 years of age, and a resident of Dubuque County. 

“Our hearts are heavy with the first loss of an Iowan to COVID-19. The thoughts and prayers of our state are with the family during this difficult time,” said Gov. Reynolds. “I continue to urge all Iowans to protect their health and the health of others, especially older individuals and those with chronic health conditions who are most at risk. We all have a role to play in limiting the spread of this virus.”

A status report of monitoring and testing of COVID19 in Iowa is provided by IDPH, updated each morning, and can be found here. In addition, a public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431. The state of Iowa has started sharing the number of negative tests conducted at outside labs, and is providing additional information on the conditions of those infected with COVID-19. 

March 23

COVID-19 cases confirmed in northwest, northern Iowa counties

Confirmed cases of COVID019 have now been reported in several northwest and northern Iowa counties.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported there are:

  • 2 cases in Cerro Gordo County
  • 2 cases in Hancock County
  • 2 cases in Woodbury County
  • 1 case in Kossuth County
  • 1 case in Sioux County.

As of 10 p.m. March 23, there have been no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Clay County or any of its neighboring counties.

Gov. Reynolds announces unemployment insurance tax extension to assist small businesses

DES MOINES – Today, Governor Reynolds announced that first quarter unemployment tax payments that are due April 30th  will be delayed till the end of the 2nd quarter, July 31, 2020.  Eligible employers include those employers with 50 or fewer employees. Eligible employers also must be in good standing with no delinquencies in quarterly payments. 

“Iowa’s small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and the engine behind our economy. Now more than ever we need to make sure they have the ability to manage their cash flow,” said Gov. Reynolds. “It’s critically important that we continue to take steps in support of our small business community during these challenging times.” 

To qualify for the extension, the employer must be current on all quarterly tax payments before the 1st quarter of 2020 regardless of whether or not they are seeking an extension of tax payment. All employers must file Quarterly Employers Contribution and Payroll Report electronically by 4:30 on April 24th to avoid late report filing penalty. 

Payments for Q1 would be due when Q2 payments are due, July 31, 2020. No interest or penalties will accrue for delayed payments for the eligible group.  The extension of payment deadline without interest is not a holiday or forgiveness and the taxes will be due July 31, 2020. Employers still need to file their quarterly reports, which contain employee wage data necessary to compute benefit eligibility and amounts to be paid.

“More than 95% of businesses in Iowa, or 72,264 employers, have 50 or fewer employees.  They employ a total of 417,536 Iowans, pay approximately $4.2 billion in wages. Providing an extension to paying unemployment insurance taxes will help the vast majority of employers during this difficult time,” said Director Beth Townsend, Iowa Workforce Development.

For an employer who elects to take advantage of the extension, please contact our Unemployment Insurance Tax division at either 1-888-848-7442 or by sending an email to Q1tax@iwd.iowa.gov.   If an employer would like to request additional time to pay the tax, please contact the Unemployment Insurance Tax Division. IWD recommends sending an email versus a phone call as there is a high call volume during this time that may lead to extended wait times.  Employers must notify IWD of intent to delay payment by Friday, April 24th at 4:30 pm.

Governor Reynolds announces COVID-19 Iowa Small Business Relief Program

Press release

DES MOINES – Governor Reynolds today announced the launch of a new Iowa Small Business Relief Program that will provide financial assistance to small businesses that have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program offers eligible small businesses grants ranging from $5,000-$25,000 in addition to offering Iowa businesses a deferral of sales and use or withholding taxes due and waiver of penalty and interest.

“Small businesses are the source of thriving main streets and community pride across Iowa,” said Gov. Reynolds. “The Small Business Relief Grant Program is another way we can support our small businesses during this unprecedented time.” 

Iowa Small Business Relief Program Grant:

To be eligible for a small business relief grant, eligible businesses must:  

  • Be experiencing business disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic 
  • Have employed between 2-25 people prior to March 17, 2020 

The Small Business Relief Grants will assist eligible businesses in maintaining operations or reopening business following the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds may not be used to pay debts incurred prior to March 17, 2020.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority will review grant applications for eligibility and will determine the grant amount by the level of impact including loss in sales revenue and employees. Notification of award decisions and disbursement of grant funds will be expedited.

Tax Assistance:

The Iowa Department of Revenue will review each application as applicable, to determine if it is appropriate to grant a deferral of the eligible taxes and waiver of penalty and interest.

The dual application for grant assistance and tax deferral is available at iowabusinessrecovery.com. The deadline for applications is March 31 at 12:00 p.m. (noon). The program may be restricted due to funding availability.  

Gov. Reynolds signs new proclamation continuing State Public Health Emergency Declaration 

Press release

DES MOINES – Today, Gov. Reynolds signed a new proclamation continuing the State Public Health Emergency Declaration. The proclamation includes additional mandatory closures, relaxes certain restrictions to promote additional social distancing and provides regulatory relief to Iowa health care industries, among other actions outlined in the proclamation below. 

The proclamation closes the following from Sunday, March 22nd, 2020 at 10:00 p.m. until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March, 31st, 2020: Salons, medical spas, barbershops, tattoo establishments, tanning facilities, massage therapy establishments, and swimming pools. 

To assist Iowans further, it suspends all foreclosures on residential, commercial, and agricultural real property. 

The proclamation also provides professional licensing relief to remove barriers who want to step up and serve in medical professions and to prevent the expiration of professional licenses during the disaster.  

To promote further social distancing, the declaration suspends in-person requirements for various activities. 

Read the full proclamation.

Testing Not Required and Not Feasible for Return to Work

Press release

Spencer Hospital’s Emergency Department and Avera Medical Group Spencer have been contacted by local citizens who state they are being required by their business to be screened for COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 19) prior to being permitted to return to work following an illness. Testing of people who do not meet the Iowa Department of Public Health’s screening protocol is not necessary or feasible.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines are:

Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [38.0° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.

March 20

Local Experts Discuss COVID-19 Testing Availability

Press release

As more cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) are confirmed in Iowa and across the country, many people are wondering if they have the virus and asking what they can do to get tested. Conflicting information from across the country has added to the confusion.

“The first question anyone should ask when considering if they should get tested for coronavirus is if they have traveled to an area with ongoing spread of the virus, or if they have come into close personal contact with some who has tested positive,” said Dr. Stephanie Johnson, pathologist and Medical Director of Spencer Hospital’s Laboratory.

Dr. Johnson added: “If you happen to meet these criteria, then you need to assess yourself for symptoms of coronavirus including a fever over 100.4 degrees, cough, and shortness of breath. People who have met the contact criteria and have symptoms should call their physician’s office for further evaluation and to determine if they need testing.” She emphasized: “if at any time you should develop difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in your chest, confusion, or bluish lips or face, you should call 911 or your local emergency department and seek medical attention immediately.”

Besides the criteria for individual testing, there has been a significant amount of media attention given to local and national availability of testing.

“Locally, we have the supplies needed to collect samples from people who meet the criteria for testing,” said Jordan Reed, Spencer Hospital’s Laboratory Director. “We have worked closely with local physicians, using regional and national resources, to develop criteria to test patients that ensures local testing materials are used appropriately while providing testing and care when it is indicated.”

Reed added: “While the sample is collected from a person within our community, the testing for coronavirus is performed at the State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa or at a regional reference laboratory so it’s important we meet the testing protocol for those labs before collecting a specimen.”

Reed continued: “Beyond concern for conservation of local testing materials, the materials needed to conduct the actual test for coronavirus at state and national labs are limited. Development of new medical tests is a complicated process that typically takes years, so limitations in testing supply is due to a combination of this developmental process and the fact that coronavirus is a new virus that we couldn’t even test for in the United States outside of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) prior to February 7.”

Despite the current limitations, Reed remains optimistic. “Every day we get updates about progress testing sites are making to add testing and testing capacity,” he shared.  “The nation’s testing is projected to increase over ten times its current capacity within the next two weeks.”

As the region’s and country’s capacity to test for coronavirus grows, patients should start to see results from testing in a shorter amount of time. “Currently it is taking from 2-7 days to receive patient results,” Reed said, “as more locations offer testing and increase capacity, we will see that time decrease to 2-3 days.”

In summary, Dr. Johnson added, “The current testing situation for coronavirus highlights the importance of social distancing in order to ‘flatten the curve’, which means giving the healthcare system the opportunity to build testing capacity and the ability to respond healthcare needs when they arise.” She finishes by commenting, “The best thing people can do right now to improve testing for coronavirus is to stay home, avoid contact with others, and to call your physician’s office for further evaluation if you feel ill.”

City, county facilities closed to public

The Spencer City Council held a meeting Wednesday during which it voted to limit access to city facilities, including city hall, the transfer station, golf course clubhouse, library and other facilities.

In a public address streamed live on Facebook, Mayor Kevin Robinson said he wanted to let residents know that the city is still conducting business.

“There’ll still be trash pickup, there’ll still be recycling, you can still get building permits, anything that the city government normally carries out, we will continue to carry out,” Robinson said. “We just need to limit access into our facilities.”

Robinson said the city made this decision to keep city staff “as health as possible” and limit the staff’s potential exposure to COVID-19.

“We want to do that because it’s essential that we keep the citizens provided with the services that they need,” he said, adding that includes police, fire, public works, planning and recreation departments.

City trails are still open, but Robinson asked that people not congregate at shelters.

The Clay County Board of Supervisors also on March 18 voted to close the Clay County administration building, courthouse, secondary roads building and the Clay County Attorney’s Office to the public indefinitely.

County department heads and the clerk of courts will use discretion in granting exceptions into the buildings.

Spencer Hospital tightens visitor, patient companion restrictions; adds entrance ambassadors

Press release

Spencer Hospital has tightened visitor/patient companion restrictions in an effort to provide patients the safest possible environment during the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 19). Effective Friday, March 20, patients are only permitted to have someone accompany them to an appointment or visit them while hospitalized under extenuating circumstances.

Exceptions permitted are as follows:

  • One person may accompany/visit patient in Birth Center
  • One person may accompany person scheduled for a procedure in the Surgery Center
  • One parent/guardian may accompany/visit patient under age 18
  • Immediate family members may visit patients receiving end-of-life care, as defined by physician

Visitors cannot rotate with another person during the patient’s stay in an effort to reduce the number of people who enter the hospital. Also, deliveries to patients of flowers, gifts, etc. have been temporarily suspended to avoid bringing in items from outside of the hospital. Though the volunteer gift shop is currently closed, gifts from the shop can be ordered online and delivered and ecards can be sent via the Spencer Hospital website: www.spencerhospital.org.

Spencer Hospital has also initiated an ambassador program at the main hospital entrance and emergency entrance. The main entrance will have one door – entrance B – open Monday through Friday between the hours of 5:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. All patients and visitors will be greeted by a hospital ambassador at that entrance who will ask if the person has any respiratory symptoms and will conduct a quick temperature check.

After 5 p.m. and on weekends, patients and permitted visitors will be asked to use the emergency department entrance on the east side of the Spencer Hospital campus. An ambassador at the emergency entrance will also conduct a brief screening, including temperature check. Ambassadors at the ED entrance will be available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day.

Spencer Hospital employees are also undergoing a health screening when they arrive to work.

Local COVID-19 Call Center Established

Press release

To help manage the number of calls related to COVID-19 to the local family practice clinics and Spencer Hospital emergency department, a Clay County Medical Community COVID-19 Call Center has been established and will be operational effective March 18.

“The clinic and hospital are receiving numerous calls from people who are concerned about their risk for becoming infected with COVID-19,” explained Colette Rossiter, Clay County Public Health nurse. “The call center is designed to help people determine if they meet the criteria for testing. If they do, they will be asked to call their physician for further instructions.”

Nate McCormick, Avera Medical Group Spencer manager, added: “In our region, all tests for COVID-19 are transported to the University of Iowa to the State Hygienic Laboratory where the tests are conducted. This means that locally we can only collect a test sample   if the patient meets the state lab’s criteria as they will not run a specimen from a patient who does not meet protocol.”

The local COVID-19 Call Center will operate from 7 AM – 7 PM each weekday. The local number is (712) 264-6514 and the toll-free number is 1-800-848-0638. 

Gov. Reynolds signs additional State Public Health Emergency Declaration

Press release

DES MOINES – Today, Gov. Reynolds issued an additional State Public Health Emergency Declaration effective immediately providing additional regulatory relief to Iowans impacted by this public health disaster. She will hold a press conference today at 2 p.m., details on that are forthcoming.  

The declaration relaxes a number of restrictions and regulations and provides relief from other statutes and state regulations:  

  • Temporarily suspends collection of property taxes and penalties and interest
  • Temporarily suspends some evictions under the Iowa Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act or the Manufactured Home Communities or Mobile Home Parks Residential Landlord and Tenant Act in certain circumstances
  • Extends expiration deadline for a permit to carry and a permit to acquire a firearm and additional measures
  • Permits the sale of carry-out, delivery, drive-thru of alcohol for unopened bottles of alcohol for bars and restaurants and suspends some fees
  • Permits public meetings or hearings by electronic means to improve the functions of government while maintaining social distancing practices
  • Suspends certain regulations to ease the transportation of agricultural supplies and commodities, food, medical supplies, cleaning products, and other household goods on all highways in Iowa
  • The proclamation also allows related state agencies to implement the state’s public health emergency plan

Read the full text of the proclamation.

March 19

Gov. Reynolds signs legislation to fund key services, combat COVID19 spread 

Press release

DES MOINES – On March 17, Governor Kim Reynolds signed SF 2408, legislation that creates emergency measures and supplemental appropriations for key government services to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

“Every Iowan has a role to play in limiting and mitigating the spread of COVID-19. These measures will fund core services and also give schools the flexibility to keep their students safe.” said Gov. Reynolds. “I appreciate lawmakers working together on legislation that funds key government services and additional emergency measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.”

SF 2408 Supplemental appropriations and emergency measurers 

  • Supplemental appropriations for Medicaid ($88.98 million) 
  • Supplemental appropriations other health programs ($1.8 million) 
  • Supplemental appropriations for state hygienic lab ($525,000). 
  • Limits some standing appropriations (non-public school transportation, instructional support, AEA funding). 
  • Requires DOM and the LSA to review FY 2020 appropriations and to make appropriations for the first two months of FY 2021. 
  • Transfers: Includes exemptions from transfer rules. EEF: Makes emergency appropriations from the EEF of up to 10% to the DOM for purposes approved by the Governor, through August 31. Includes various repeal dates. Schools: Authorizes the Governor to waive school instructional time requirements for schools that close due to the COVID-19 virus.

SF 2408 can be viewed here

Governor Kim Reynolds held a press conference yesterday to provide an update to the state of Iowa on current 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) mitigation efforts. That press conference can be viewed in its entirety, here

Governor Reynolds announces assistance for employees and employers affected by COVID-19 related layoffs

Press release

DES MOINES – Governor Reynolds on March 16 announced assistance for workers and employers impacted by layoffs related to COVID-19.  The guidance includes information for employees filing for unemployment insurance claims, as well as information on programs available for employers.

“Iowa has incredible employers accommodating the needs of Iowans during the disruption caused by COVID-19,” said Gov. Reynolds. “The state of Iowa is doing everything we can to ease the process and shorten the time it will take for Iowans to receive unemployment benefits. All of our state agencies continue to work as one team to lessen the impact COVID-19 will have on our economy and our people.”   

“Iowa Workforce Development is taking steps to reduce the impact of these claims on employers who have had to temporarily lay off staff due to closures or slowdowns,” said IWD Director BethTownsend. “IWD encourages all employers to utilize paid leave and telework options for employees before utilizing temporary layoffs.  Iowa Workforce Development will continue to monitor the situation, working with our stakeholders and updates will be released on our webpage.”  

Unemployment insurance claims:

  • If you are laid off due to COVID-19 or have to stay home to self-isolate, care for family members or due to illness related to COVID-19, you can receive unemployment benefits, provided you meet all other eligibility requirements.  Those requirements essentially include working for wages from an employer who claims you as an employee in six of the last eighteen months and have earned at least $2,500 in the same time period. More specific explanation of benefit eligibility can be found at: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/2019-unemployment-insurance-claimant-handbook
  • Claimants can expect to receive payment within 7-10 days after the date the claim is filed.
  • Claims that are filed and identified as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19, will not be charged to employers.  Fact-finding interviews for these claims will be waived and not be held although employers will be notified of claims received. 
  • IWD will process unemployment insurance payments to ensure payment will continue to be paid in a timely manner. 

“The Iowa Workforce Development team is dedicated to providing assistance to employees and employers affected by COVID-19.  Please do not hesitate to contact myself or our team for assistance at 1-866-239-0843,” said Director Townsend. 

For more information, visit www.IowaWorkforceDevelopment.gov Updates will be released as they become available.

Clay County Public Health officials emphasize need for social distancing

Press release

As community spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 has occurred in Iowa, Clay County Public Health officials emphasize the importance of social distancing and offer a number of recommendations to the community.

“COVID-19 is a new virus, so while symptoms may be similar to other illnesses, it is a new disease and no one has immunity to it. Therefore, social distancing – which means only essential trips to public areas – is essential in curtailing the spread of the disease,” explained Dr. David Keith, Clay County Public Health Medical Director. “Our focus is on prevention and slowing the rapid spread of this virus in order to have adequate resources, both supplies and healthcare personnel, to provide care to those in need. That will be more difficult if everyone gets sick at once.”

Janessa Mechler, Clay County Board of Health Chair, added: “Please be careful to help keep yourself and loved ones from becoming infected. I cannot emphasize enough the importance on only making necessary trips to public places. People must be selective about going to public places. If it’s essential that you make a trip to a store, volunteer to drop off supplies for a neighbor. If you must be out, the recommendation is to maintain at least six feet of distance from others. Also, remember, thoroughly and frequently wash your hands with soap and water.”

Dr. Keith and Mechler outlined several steps for community members to consider to help manage this public health emergency.

Individuals and families:

  • Know where to find local information. Clay County Public Health is coordinating information with Spencer Hospital which can be found at www.spencerhospital.org. Follow the link to the COVID-19 update page.
  • Practice social distancing. Only make essential trips. Avoid places where 10 or more people may gather. Avoid all non-essential travel.
    Stay home if you are sick. Call your health provider’s office in advance of a visit.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, making sure you scrub palms, backs of hands and between fingers. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol content.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth without washing your hands first.
  • Be as healthy as you can. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, exercise and manage your stress.


Implement social distancing practices at work, which includes, when feasible:

  • Consider telework
  • Stagger work schedules
  • Increase physical space between workers on the worksite
  • Limit non-essential work travel
  • Consider regular health checks (ie. Temperature screenings of staff)

Evaluate how your business can protect coworkers and customers. Suggestions include:

  • Encourage online shopping
  • Limit dining to pick-up, delivery, carry-out and drive-thru
  • Conduct service business through telephone and email
  • Consider creative ways to assist customers in shopping and obtaining your products

“At this time there have been no reported cases in our area, yet I would encourage people to practice social distancing under the assumption that the virus is present locally. Those measures will help slow the spread of disease,” said. Dr. Keith.

He shared that reported illnesses across the world have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Most people experience mild illness. The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure: Fever, cough, shortness of breath. COVID-19 can be more severe for the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.

“Again, if you suspect you are ill and may have been exposed to COVID-19, call first. Health professionals can provide a phone screening and instructions on next steps. This helps avoid potentially infecting other people at a clinic or hospital seeking care for conditions not related to the COVID-19 virus.”

March 17

Gov. Reynolds issues state of public health disaster emergency, imposes restaurant requirements, prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynods has issued a state of public health disaster emergency effective at noon today until April 16 that implements steps requiring social distancing and limiting community spread of COVID-19.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, those steps include temporary requirements that restaurants move to drive-thru, take out and delivery services only. Bars, fitness centers, theaters, casinos, senior centers and other recreational facilities must also close.

Gatherings of more than 10 people are also prohibited.

The restrictions placed on restaurants, bars, other businesses listed and gatherings is in place through March 31.

The Iowa Department of Public Health has determined that community spread of COVID-19 is happening and has confirmed multiple cases in the state.

No confirmed cases have been reported in Clay County or in neighboring counties as of Tuesday morning.

The governor’s proclamation gives state agencies more flexibility in how they can respond to the ever-changing COVID-19 situation. The press release states the proclamation also supports the critical work of public health.

Read more about the proclamation and what it does.

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