By Rep. Dustin Hite
This week has seen some unprecedented measures taken across the country and in the State to curb the spread of COVID-19. One such measure was taken by the House and Senate to pass emergency legislation shortly after midnight on Tuesday to suspend our legislative session for a minimum of 30 days. The decision was made in consultation with the Department of Public Health and the Governor’s office following the announcement of “community spread” in Iowa. The Legislature is following recommendations from the Center for Disease Control related to mass gatherings to protect vulnerable populations.
This was a decision that was not made lightly but is in the best interest of the public, press, staff, and legislators.
Before adjourning for the time being, the Legislature passed a plan that will help the state respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. This plan ensures that the state can meet its budget obligations and Iowans can continue to rely on essential services and gives schools certainty regarding school closings. Additionally, it provides Governor Reynolds with additional tools to ensure that she can effectively manage a rapidly changing situation.
Information for Schools
Governor Reynolds recommended that Iowa schools close for a minimum of four weeks to prevent further spread of COVID-19. In response, the Legislature has waived the requirement for schools to make up days through April 12. After that, the Legislature has provided the Governor with the ability to forgive school days statewide or on a district by district basis. This decision will provide Iowa school districts with the certainty that they need to make decisions locally and move ahead this school year.
You can find school guidance from the Department of Education here.
Information for Workers and Businesses
Governor Reynolds has also announced assistance for workers and businesses impacted by layoffs related to COVID-19. Iowans who have been 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, may eligible for unemployment benefits, provided they meet all other eligibility requirements, and work search requirements will be waived.
You can find more information from Iowa Workforce Development here.
Taking Care of Yourself and Others
During this time, we must all do our part to prevent the spread of illnesses and protect our health care system from becoming overburdened.
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus in the first place. This is especially important for people who are at a higher risk of getting very sick (older adults, people who have serious chronic medical conditions). If you are feeling ill, contact your primary care provider or your local county public health agency if you have any questions.
Prevention of COVID-19 is the same as that for other respiratory illness (like flu):
Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper arm/elbow.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Stay home if you’re sick.
The CDC recommends wearing a facemask if you are sick or if you are caring for someone who is sick. Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.
You can find more information from the CDC on how to protect yourself here.
As you may imagine, COVID-19 has also led to the cancellation of all remaining Eggs and Issues forums. If you have a question or concern for me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know this is a difficult situation for every Iowan. But I encourage everyone to stay calm while taking all the recommended measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. This is the time for us Iowans to come together and protect each other from this virus. Please be conscious of your neighbors by staying home as much as possible, frequently washing your hands, and staying up to date on new policies and cancellations. I will provide updates as I receive them, and I am happy to answer any questions at my email above.