ONAWA, Iowa -- A case of the novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, was confirmed in Monona County Wednesday.
This is the first known case in Monona County and the fourth in Northwest Iowa. Woodbury County was the first in the region to have a positive case announced over the weekend, followed by Sioux County the following day. A second case was confirmed in Woodbury County this week.
The Monona County individual is self-isolating at home, according to a press release from Burgess Public Health in Onawa. The age and gender of the person are not known, nor is the town in which they reside.
Iowa has a total of 145 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. This figure does not yet include the Monona County case. The first death tied to the virus in Iowa was announced Tuesday.
SIOUX CITY -- The Warming Shelter closed its doors for the season Wednesday due to concerns related to COVID-19.
The seasonal shelter, located at 916 Nebraska St., is normally open from Nov. 1 to April 30 every year. Its mission is to ensure that no one freezes during the coldest winter months.
"The decision (to close early) was not an easy one," Lindsay Landrum, the shelter's director, said in a statement. "This decision was made for many reasons, with the most important being the well-being and health of our staff and residents."
Given that residents live in tight quarters, it was thought that if COVID-19 hit The Warming Shelter, it would spread very quickly. Landrum told the Journal Tuesday that 87 people spent the night Monday at the shelter, up from the 60-person average she usually sees at this point in the season. She said the shelter had already used at least half of its Lysol wipe supply and that there were only a handful of masks available for shelter workers.
"There is no quarantining sites in Sioux City to assist with isolating the homeless population in order for the virus to not spread to others," Landrum said in the statement. "With this information, we had no other choice but to close for our season in order to keep our staff, their families and our residents healthy as possible."
The Warming Shelter will continue to take donations for next season, as well as for building renovation. Visit TheWarmingShelter.com to donate.
JOHNSTON, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday there’s no need to impose stringent shelter-in-place restrictions as long as Iowans continue to abide by voluntary measures intended to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic that has claimed one Iowan’s life and hospitalized at least 23 others.
The Iowa governor said she did not want to interrupt the supply chain for Iowa businesses and put additional stress on workers in essential areas beyond the emergency steps she has already taken by issuing an order like Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz did in his state Wednesday and Illinois did last week that directs residents to stay at home and limit movement outside of their homes beyond essential needs.
“Every day we are assessing our mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the virus and determining whether or not it’s time to turn the dial up or turn the dial down,” Reynolds told an afternoon news conference at the state’s emergency operations center.
“We’re seeing some states issue shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders causing Iowans to ask why not Iowa?” she noted. “In fact, many of the steps that we have already taken are equivalent to the stay at home orders that we are seeing in several of these states — like closing schools and some businesses, implementing work from home and distance learning and reducing gatherings to 10 people.
“The significant steps that we have taken will help mitigate the spread of the virus, protect the most vulnerable Iowans and reduce our risk of overwhelming our health care system. It’s important also that we keep Iowa open for business in a responsible way that protects the health of our people and our economy.”
The governor said current measures — to have Iowans work and stay in their homes as much as possible; to seek medical help if necessary but treat minor illnesses themselves; and to practice social distancing — have succeeded at a time when other states are enlisting tougher controls.
Reynolds praised Iowa’s front-line, health care employees for their steadfast work but noted hospital supply challenges.
Only 280 ventilators are available and not in use but more are being ordered.
Also, the State Hygienic Laboratory, in Coralville, has 1,270 kits available for COVID-19 testing.
And the Iowa National Guard has been enlisted to run nearly 50 missions in the last two days to deliver personal protective equipment supplies statewide to locations with prioritized critical needs.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening declared that a major disaster exists in Iowa and ordered federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the coronavirus pandemic that began on Jan. 20. The president’s action also extends to local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective work.
Update on cases
During her news conference, Reynolds said the Iowa Department of Public Health has confirmed 21 additional positive cases of Iowans with COVID-19, bringing the statewide total of 145 positive cases in 31 counties since the viral outbreak began earlier this month.
Twenty-three Iowans were hospitalized for coronavirus symptoms Wednesday, state officials said.
Some 2,578 people tested negative for the virus, a total that includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs.
One death was reported — a Dubuque County resident between the ages of 61 and 80, who died Tuesday. No additional information about the individual will be provided.
In fielding questions from reporters, Reynolds conceded that her legislative priority — the Invest in Iowa Act — is “kind of on hold right now” with the 2020 legislative session suspended at least into April.
Her focus, “day in and day out,” is now on mitigating the spread of COVID-19, she said.
Reynolds also told reporters she’s not ready to recommend Iowa’s K-12 school closures of up to four weeks be extended.
But she said a state task force is constantly reassessing and evaluating whether and what additional steps might need to be taken.
Currently, schools are not required to make up any missed days through April 10 under legislation the governor signed last week.
The discussions with educators and administrators are “fluid,” in examining online learning options that must take into account equity and access issues.
According to state health officials, the locations and age ranges of the 21 individuals added to Wednesday’s list of positive cases are:
• Allamakee County, one middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
• Benton County, two middle-aged adults (41-60 years)
• Hancock County, one middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
• Johnson County, four adults (18-40 years), one middle-aged adult (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80 years)
• Linn County, one middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
• Muscatine County, one adult (18-40 years)
• Polk County, three older adults (61-80 years)
• Poweshiek County, two older adults (61-80 years)
• Scott County, two middle-aged adults (41-60 years)
SIOUX CITY -- Mark Kochen's world is filled with tiny birds sitting on humongous seats as well as city-dwelling sheep living nonchalantly next to industrial complexes.
Oh, did we mention the bunnies? The Sioux City-based artist loves to create bunnies in his incredibly detailed pieces.
"When I started making bunnies, they were fatter," Kochen explained. "Now, they're more angular, refined and better-looking."
Many of Kochen's favored subject matters -- '80s-era boomboxes, floor TV sets and elaborate landscapes -- are front-and-center in a coloring book available for purchase at Markkochen.com as well as at Sioux City Gifts, 1922 Pierce St.
The 36 original, hand-drawn images, compiled over a span of a decade, are also being shared by Kochen on his Facebook page.
Kochen is doing this to give kids, home from school due to coronavirus concerns, something creative to work on as they self-quarantine.
Indeed, he remembered what it was like to be a kid with an overactive imagination.
"I was totally into 'Where's Waldo,' Bill Watterson's 'Calvin and Hobbes' and the work of Richard Scarry as a child," the 39-year-old Kochen said.
Well, Kochen apparently is still a kid at heart. His home studio is decorated with "Calvin and Hobbes" collectibles and, yes, 3-foot-tall bunnies do greet visitors as they enter the home he shares with his wife, Sara.
"The secret of any artist's successful marriage is to marry someone who understands our quirks," he explained. "Sara, who is an art teacher for the Hinton Community School District, understands my quirks."
That means Kochen's inability to throw anything away.
"Hey, my coloring book comes entirely from art I've stashed away for one reason or another," he said.
And what is it like to look at illustrations that have been, literally, on the drawing board for the past decade?
"When I was younger, I was extremely critical of my work," Kochen said. "As I've gained experience, I see the work was better than I remember it being. Could a line be drawn straighter? Yes. Still, the idea was always there."
In a career that combined high art -- large-scale murals and gallery-ready pieces -- and low art -- pieces turned into jigsaw puzzles and coloring books -- Kochen finds value in both.
"Puzzles and coloring books are perfect examples of popular things that are getting a resurgence," he said. "Just like vinyl records, coloring books and puzzles are back, baby!"
Which is good for kids, who are suddenly home from school.
"For the coloring book, I literally remove the color from my art," Kochen explained. "This give the audience the creative license to color it however they want to."
This is both stimulating and a bit unnerving for Kochen.
"People share their drawings with me and the results are always surprising," he said. "If they color one of my elephants a certain shade, I'd think, wow, I'd never do it that way."
Perhaps, someday, today's youth will look at Kochen in the same way he looked at artistic idols like Richard Scarry and Bill Watterson.
Well, there is a timelessness to bunnies and sheep and Reagan-era electronics.
Morningside College and Dordt University announced Wednesday they will shift all courses to online instruction for the remainder of the spring semester, citing concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
As part of this decision, Morningside will close its residential halls at noon April 8, though students are encouraged to move out at their earliest convenience. Students are asked not to return to campus if they or anyone they've been in contact with experience coronavirus symptoms.
Morningside president John Reynders acknowledged some students, due to special circumstances, will not be able to leave campus. The college's Residence Life office will be working to accommodate those individuals.
"Please know that theses decisions were not easily reached, but are in accordance with the recommendations we have received from local, state, national and global leaders," Reynders said in a letter posted Wednesday. "I value each ad every member of this community. It is important to me that Morningside carries out its mission of civic responsibility by doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. As such, these actions are necessary to protect your health and well-being."
Students will receive a yet-to-determined refund or credit for vacating residential halls early. Those details will be worked out in the next few weeks.
The private Sioux City college said its May term classes have been canceled. Any junior or senior who hasn't completed a May term before graduating in May will have that requirement waived.
Dordt had initially planned to resume on-campus instruction on April 13, but decided to suspend in-person classes through the end of the semester.
President Erik Hoekstra said Dordt leaders determined that more than one-third of the students at the Sioux Center, Iowa, university would not be able to return to campus, and those who could would need to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return.
Dordt will host commencement on May 8, but Hoekstra said it is anticipated the event will be a virtual experience.
Morningside and Dordt join a long list of colleges and universities, including Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, that have ended in-person classes this semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SIOUX CITY -- The June E. Nylen Cancer Center in Sioux City has taken precautionary measures to increase the safety of its patients and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Beginning Thursday, patient care employees will be split into teams that will work on different days to ensure that if someone is exposed to the coronavirus, the cancer center would not have staff shortages that could impact the ability to provide cancer treatments.
The change will impact how many patients can be treated each day. Cancer center physicians are reviewing patient schedules and have developed clinical guidance to help them balance timely care with infection prevention. This may lead to changes in appointments and care plans for patients.
The cancer center will be contacting individuals based upon physician direction to reschedule if it is believed to be in the patient's best interest. The cancer center’s hours may change to lengthen shifts of the clinical teams, so patient appointment times may need to be adjusted.
Patients should assume their appointment is the same as previously scheduled unless they are contacted by cancer center staff.
The change also may mean patients will not see their primary oncologist because they are not working that shift.
"The June E. Nylen Cancer Center appreciates your understanding as we take these necessary steps to protect all our staff, which then means the continued opportunity to care for our patients safely," executive director Krista McCullough said in a news release.
A telemedicine option is available for physician appointments if a patient does not wish to enter the cancer center.
The cancer center is asking that patients who have a fever of 100.4 degrees and above or a cough and/or shortness of breath to call ahead before arriving for their appointment. The center's phone nurse will talk with you to determine if you should contact your primary care physician before coming to the cancer center, located at 230 Nebraska St.
For more information, to call about symptoms or to request a telemedicine physician appointment, call 712-252-0088.
RAPID CITY, S.D. -- A patient who tested positive for coronavirus at Rapid City's Monument Health was also a caregiver there who worked in the cancer care institute.
People at the highest risk for contracting severe and fatal symptoms for COVID-19 include immunocompromised individuals, which includes those undergoing cancer treatments.
Paulette Davidson, CEO and President of Monument Health, estimated Wednesday at a press conference that the patient, who has only been identified as a woman, came into contact with 100 patients, 10 other caregivers and two physicians. Most patients were in an ambulatory area, she said.
She also said the patient's exposure was related to travel somewhere within the U.S.
Davidson said Monument Health first learned of the positive test result Tuesday and immediately began working through its protocols to identify who came into contact with the caregiver.
The caregiver had to provide a list of everyone she came into contact with, which was sent to the state Department of Health (DOH). The DOH is investigating the situation and has contacted each individual that the patient was in contact with to notify them of their exposure.
The 112 people who were exposed to the caregiver are instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days at home as they monitor their symptoms and practice social distancing from other people. Internal teams at Monument Health will continue communication with those patients and are monitoring their symptoms.
"What makes this situation unique is that those who may have been exposed are also our patients," Davidson said. "This group of caregivers and physicians has been notified and sent home to quarantine based on CDC guidelines."
Davidson said that Monument Health activated additional cleaning procedures in the positive caregiver's work area.
Dr. Brad Archer, chief medical officer for Monument Health, said physicians and care teams are working on strategies to keep the 112 exposed individuals safe at home while maintaining their healthcare.
"The same group of clinicians is working to manage supplies, testing equipment and personal protective equipment in the middle of national shortages," Archer said.
Davidson said Monument Health is doing "OK" with staffing.
"We've limited our elective surgical procedures, so we're able to use many of our staff that were in those roles and have them step into other roles," Davidson said. "We actually have a staffing pool so we can use some of our talented people in new roles if needed."
Following suit with Sanford Health and Avera on the eastern side of South Dakota, Monument Health is working to get its own testing equipment and capability in the Black Hills.
Davidson said they are currently testing patients with high-risk symptoms at the state health lab in Pierre and sending tests to the Mayo Clinic laboratories for patients with lower-risk symptoms.
"That's working well for us. I anticipate mid-April to the end of April being able to process our own tests in our own laboratory," Davidson said.
Dr. Archer said that if Monument Health can set up its own lab by then, testing results would be available to patients in a matter of minutes.
LINCOLN, Neb. -- In an effort to prevent the potential spread of the COVID-19 disease, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission on Wednesday announced it will temporarily close state park lodging in April.
Lodging facilities and cabin rentals will be closed April 1-30 and possibly longer if conditions require it. Tent and RV camping are available and will be evaluated in accordance with state and federal directives and local health department guidelines.
Public shower buildings are closed through April 30, but park bathrooms, which are sanitized regularly, remain open.
State parks and recreation areas remain open for day use, hiking, camping, fishing and recreation while maintaining social distancing.