COVID-19 UPENDS DAILY LIFE IN GREENE COUNTY
Life in Greene County is largely on hold in hopes of halting the spread of COVID-19.
Postponements, cancellations and closures are widespread, impacting schools and related activities, plus a growing list of community events, including the BOOST fundraiser for Greene County Schools and the Relay for Life of Greene County.
The Diocese of Sioux City even canceled Holy Week Masses.
And that was all before Gov. Kim Reynolds’ issuance Tuesday morning of a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency that officially went into effect at noon.
The governor’s proclamation moved all restaurants to drive-through, carry-out and delivery only, and closed bars, casinos, movie theaters, fitness centers and other recreational facilities until 11:59 p.m. March 31.
Community, religious, recreational, leisure and sporting gatherings and events of more than 10 people are also prohibited.
At the governor’s urging, both school districts in Greene County are closed until April 13.
“These are unprecedented times and the state of Iowa will do whatever is necessary to address this public health disaster,” Reynolds said in a statement.
Reynolds also temporarily suspended expiration dates for vehicle registration, registration cards and registration plates.
As of press time, no cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus had been identified in Greene County, but neighboring Carroll County had one case and Dallas County reported five cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation Sunday that gatherings of 50 or more people — including weddings — be canceled or postponed for eight weeks.
On Monday, the White House recommended people avoid gatherings of just 10 or more.
For her part, Reynolds on Sunday recommended that Iowa schools close for four weeks after the Iowa Department of Public Health discovered “substantial community spread of COVID-19 in the state.”
Reynolds’ decision was made with a total of 22 positive cases of COVID-19 throughout the state, including a child in Allamakee County in northeast Iowa.
With testing expanding, state health officials expected the number of positive cases to increase.
Paton-Churdan was the first locally to announce it would comply with Reynolds’ request, announcing Sunday night it would be closed through April 13.
All activities were also canceled for the next four weeks.
P-C followed up Monday with the announcement of a weekday grab-and-go lunch program beginning March 23 for its students. Students will be able to receive a free sack lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the school in Churdan, and at noon in Paton at the bus stop.
Anyone interested in taking part in the lunch program should email firstname.lastname@example.org by noon March 22.
Greene County Schools, which is on spring break this week, followed suit Tuesday afternoon, closing schools until April 13.
The district’s grab and go sack lunch program begins March 23, and will run weekdays for three weeks for Greene County children birth to 18.
Staff will hand out sack lunches from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Greene County Middle School, the Grand Junction Community Center, the Rippey Community Center and the Scranton Community Center.
School days canceled between March 16 and April 12 won’t need to be rescheduled thanks to an agreement between Reynolds and the Legislature.
For Greene County Schools, the last day of school is still May 29, and graduation is May 24.
Prom, scheduled for April 4, has been postponed until May 9.
A meeting set for March 25 to discuss the future of the middle school gym is postponed.
The district also announced that once school is back in session, early dismissals on Wednesdays will be discontinued to provide more educational time.
In addition, the district is developing suggested learning activities, resources and sample learning schedules so students can continue to be engaged during closure. However, none of the activities are required.
The activities will be available online at sites.google.com/greenecountycsd.net/gccsdathome beginning March 23 at 5 p.m.
There will be no activity/athletic practices until April 13.
As of noon March 23, all district buildings will be closed to the public.
Wild Rose Casino in Jefferson closed at noon Tuesday in compliance with Reynolds’ order.
“The safety and well-being of all of our guests, employees and their families has always been and continues to be our foremost priority,” Tom Timmons, president and CEO of Wild Rose Entertainment, said in a statement. “This is an unprecedented situation and it’s important we come together and do what it takes to limit the spread of COVID-19/coronavirus.”
Other closures or postponements:
• The Greene County Medical Center is implementing restrictions to the entire medical center.
Only primary caregivers essential to the care of a patient are allowed.
• The Greene County Law Enforcement Center closed its doors to the public Wednesday.
The move closes only public access to the front desk. Coverage and operations will be unaffected, Sheriff Jack Williams said.
Renewal periods for permits to carry will be extended, he said.
• Jefferson City Hall is closed to foot traffic.
Utility payments may be made in the two night drops, or call City Hall at 515-386-3111 to pay with a debit/credit card.
• Scranton City Hall and all public works buildings in Scranton are closed to the public until further notice.
City Hall in Scranton will be staffed for calls from 2 to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Payments may be made in the drop box or by calling City Hall at 712-652-3888.
• The Jefferson Telecom office is closed to walk-in traffic.
A payment station has been established in the vestibule area with envelopes. Customers are asked to use the outside drop box for payments.
No change will be given at this time to customers paying by cash; the full amount will be credited to their account.
Jefferson Telecom has additional payment options available, including online, automatic bill pay through a bank, by mail or by phone at 515-386-4141, option 4.
All on-site technician work has also been suspended for new installations and troubles. Technicians and front office staff will work with customers remotely to help rectify any issues.
For after-hours internet trouble, call 515-386-5500.
• The Greene County Community Center had initially announced reduced hours Monday, but it appears that Reynolds’ public health disaster proclamation will shutter the center through the end of the month.
• Jefferson Matters: Main Street and the Jefferson Area Chamber of Commerce are suspending the weekly Java & Juice event indefinitely.
• The third annual BOOST Bash, scheduled for March 28, is postponed until June 27.
The BOOST committee is offering refunds to anyone unable to attend the new date.
• The Relay for Life of Greene County, scheduled for April 24, has been postponed, citing the risk, in particular, to cancer survivors.
• The Greene County Historical Society is postponing all programs through May 1.
Historical society president David John said there were five programs on the schedule, and the organization will attempt to reschedule them later in the year.
• The Greene County office of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has canceled all programs through March.
Some, including Greene Leadership, will be rescheduled.
In addition, all Greene County 4-H meetings and activities will be canceled or postponed.
However, the Extension office will remain open normal hours.
• The Jefferson Public Library closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday and will remain closed two to four weeks.
No overdue fines will be charged while the library is closed.
The library, however, will continue to be staffed and librarians are available to answer questions by telephone and email.
The library will also provide car-side and home delivery service of materials from its collection.
• The Churdan Public Library is closed until further notice.
The library can be reached through Facebook, and email will be checked daily. Limited staff will be present each day, so messages can be left at 515-389-3423.
• The Iowa Democratic Party will hold county conventions, scheduled for March 21, at a later date.
• The Greene County Ducks Unlimited banquet has been postponed to June 20 from April 4.
• The Raccoon Valley Powersports Garage & Mancave Tour, originally scheduled for March 28, has been postponed until fall.
• The Kiwanis Club of Jefferson is postponing its chicken dinner until May 31. Tickets will remain valid.
Reynolds on Monday announced assistance for workers impacted by COVID-19, including unemployment benefits for Iowans laid off due to COVID-19 or those staying home to self-isolate, care for family members or due to illness.
To be eligible for unemployment benefits, workers need to have worked as an employee in six of the past 18 months and have earned at least $2,500 in that period.
Claims filed and identified as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 won’t be charged to employers, according to a press release from Iowa Workforce Development.
Bishop Walker Nickless, of the Diocese of Sioux City, issued a mandate late Monday suspending all Sunday and public Masses for at least eight weeks, which includes Holy Week.
The mandate followed one Friday that Nickless called “unprecedented.” Among other things, it ordered all parishes to remove holy water from hand fonts.
• The state has a public hotline for Iowans with questions about COVID-19.
The line is available 24/7 by calling 211.
• McFarland Clinic opened a COVID-19 nurse phone line at 515-500-6711 for anyone who may have been exposed to the coronavirus, and for those with symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, fever or shortness of breath).
The phone line will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. A nurse will ask a series of questions and direct your care appropriately.
As of now, there are defined testing criteria, and supplies are limited.
McFarland announced it is following CDC criteria for COVID-19 testing. (Only patients with a known exposure and who have symptoms will be tested.)
Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.