As coronavirus cases continued to rise in Eastern Iowa, several local restaurants temporarily closed their doors out of caution.
Bluff Lake Catfish Farm in rural Jackson County, the Pub Club in Lost Nation and Korner Stop Ice Cream in Sabula were among establishments thwat posted details of the changes on their Facebook pages.
The closures were evidence of the ongoing hardships the global pandemic is causing restaurants, manufacturers and mom-and-pop shops in Eastern Iowa. A survey of businesses in Jackson and Clinton counties showed more than 75% have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Revenue, cash flow, employee health, and consumer confidence topped the list of concerns in the survey conducted in May by the University of Northern Iowa for the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Besides reducing staff and having employees work remotely, some businesses temporarily closed.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds closed restaurant dining rooms March 17 and allowed them to reopen with some restrictions on May 1. However, the upswing in new cases locally prompted Bluff Lake to close last weekend.
“Safety is very important to us and we have the responsibility to do our part to keep you safe. Thank you for understanding and have a safe and healthy weekend,” the popular regional restaurant wrote on its Facebook page. The Pub Club said Thursday it was closing to help slow the spread of the virus and thanked customers for their understanding during this uncertain time. Meanwhile, Korner Stop closed July 18 as it awaited COVID-19 test results for employees, all of which were negative. The store reopened Saturday afternoon.
In a week where Clinton County added 62 new cases and Jackson County 32 new cases, 30 more Iowans died from the virus, down from 43 last week. New cases continued to rise among younger people as parents weigh whether to send their kids to school, and teachers await news on just how instruction will proceed.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds extended the state’s Public Health Disaster Emergency declaration through Aug. 23. That means the COVID-19 mitigation measures currently in place for Iowa businesses will continue, including bars and restaurants ensuring six feet of physical distance between each group or individual who is dining or drinking; ensuring all patrons have a seat at either a table or the bar; and limiting patrons from congregating together closer than six feet.
Here is a recap of key events of the past week:
Confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to increase: At least 4.2 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, according to the New York Times database. More than 146,700 patients with the virus have died. Worldwide, more than 16.2 million people have been sickened by the coronavirus pandemic, and at least 648,465 have died. The virus has been detected in nearly every country.
New claims for jobless benefits fell: The number of newly filed claims for unemployment fell in Iowa for the week ending July 18. The number of new claims filed was 8,720, a 17% percent decrease over the previous week’s 10,653 new claims. The previous week’s total was initially reported by Iowa Workforce Development as 11,125 but, as is customary, was adjusted downward by the U.S. Department of Labor. It’s expected that the latest numbers will also be adjusted downward. The number of ongoing, continuing claims for unemployment stood at 116,810 for the week ending July 18, which was down from the previous week’s adjusted total of 134,284. Unemployment insurance benefit payments totaled $31.8 million for the week ending July 18.
Iowa health experts cast doubt on temperature checks to prevent COVID spread: Iowa health experts and civil liberties advocates are questioning the effectiveness of temperature checks to detect COVID-19 at businesses and government offices. Eli Perencevich, a University of Iowa professor of internal medicine and epidemiology, said temperature checks at businesses and public places won’t help much in the fight against the coronavirus unless the state requires masks in public. Perencevich said the latest surge in Iowa’s COVID-19 cases shows that the state has fallen short in its response to the pandemic. And with young adults now accounting for just under half of Iowa’s positive cases — as they continue to gather at Greek houses, boat parties, bars, and restaurants — a mask mandate is the only thing that will turn the pandemic around in Iowa, Perencevich said.
Decision to scale back testing in Dubuque draws fire: Reynolds’ decision to scale back coronavirus testing in northeast Iowa, where infections have been on the rise, is raising questions. On Monday, Reynolds issued an order that limits testing for the virus in Dubuque. According to the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, the testing site there had been performing 400 to 550 tests per day, but is now limited to performing no more than 100 tests per day. City officials say the order means the testing site will be open only from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday.Reynolds’ office has said the change was made to “maintain consistency and high quality performance across all Test Iowa sites,” but has not elaborated.
Regents offering on-campus ACT tests: The Iowa Board of Regents will offer on-campus ACT tests for Iowans graduating high school in either 2020 or 2021. The tests will be offered beginning in August on the campuses of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa, in addition to the UI’s Pappajohn Education Center in Des Moines, and the Western Iowa Regents Resource Centers in Sioux City and Council Bluffs. The scores from these on-campus ACT tests will be valid and accepted only by Iowa’s three state universities, according to ACT rules. For more information, specific dates for each location, and to register, go to https://iowaregents.uiowa.edu/bor-campus-act.
Fewer Iowa students file for financial aid: Fewer Iowa high school seniors are applying for federal financial aid for the upcoming school year, indicating a potential drop in new enrollment at Iowa’s public universities, according to a new report from Iowa College Aid.That could mean major financial trouble for Iowa’s public universities, which rely on tuition to financially sustain them. Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) dropped for all potential college students. But the report shows fewer non-white and low-income students in particular are submitting applications as of May 31. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures, Iowa students appeared to be filing for FAFSA at higher rates than in the past five years, according to Iowa College Aid.That number tapered off March 16 when Iowa schools closed. As of May 31, 19,000 high school seniors filed FAFSA applications — about a 4% decline in comparison to previous years.
COVID-19 infections up sharply in Iowa nursing homes: The number of COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes is up sharply this week, as is the number of residents and staff infected. On Friday, there were 20 COVID-19 outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. That’s an increase of 20% from the 16 active outbreaks reported on July 20. There are no outbreaks in Clinton or Jackson counties, according information shared by the governor’s office and the IDPH at coronavirus.iowa.gov. The current nursing home outbreaks involve 518 residents or workers, an increase of 81 individuals from the 437 active-outbreak infections reported on July 20. A total of 440 Iowans in nursing homes have died of the virus, up from 425 on July 20. Earlier this week, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported that more than 2,584 Iowa nursing home residents and workers have been infected with COVID-19, with outbreaks confirmed at one of every six Iowa nursing homes.
The Iowa Capital Dispatch and other news sources contributed to this report.