Following the guidance and recommendations of state and federal authorities, the city of Perry has restricted public access to public offices during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Perry City Council reflected at its Monday night meeting on the unfortunate necessity of the actions, which also included the closure of the Perry Public Library and McCreary Community Building to the public until further notice.
“Things escalated quickly, as they say, over the weekend,” said Perry City Manager Sven Peterson. “Friday we were business as usual. We escalated some cleaning protocols and contact protocols over the weekend at the library and rec center. Finally, Sunday night we decided it’s best to have all of our buildings closed to the public until further notice.”
The council praised Peterson for his diligence is managing the crisis, and Peterson in turn praised his fellow city hall administrators and department heads for their cooperation in the decision making.
“The governor’s announcement to recommend closing the schools for four weeks, that’s what really tripped our decision,” Peterson said, “as well as the CDC recommendation for no gatherings for more than 50 people, and there’s usually more than 50 people either in those buildings at a time or through those buildings pretty rapidly. All that led to our decision to close down city buildings.”
The city’s actions preceded the announcement Monday by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) of the detection of a second positive case of COVID-19 in Dallas County and a press conference by U.S. President Donald Trump, who summarized the nation’s virus mitigation efforts, including recommending the avoidance of pubs, clubs, theaters and all crowds of 10 or more persons.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds also addressed a press conference Monday afternoon at the State Emergency Operations Center with an update on state responses to the COVID-19 epidemic
The governor was joined at the 30-minute conference by Iowa State Medical Director and Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlyn Pedati, Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend, Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo, HHS Director Kelly Kennedy Garcia and several other agency heads.
Reynolds reported that Iowa is now experiencing “substantial community spread” of the virus. She said a second shift has been added at the Iowa State Hygienic Laboratory in Iowa City, which will double the state’s capacity for virus testing from 54 to 108 tests per day.
Reynolds said her decision to recommend the closure of public schools for at least four weeks has implications for working families and childcare providers across Iowa.
“We know that closing schools has a ripple effect for Iowa families, businesses and our workforce,” she said, “and I understand that many families are concerned about how to care for their children and continue to go to work. Childcare plays a key role in Iowa’s ability to continue essential functions.”
Reynolds said she has proposed extending assistance to childcare providers based on enrollment and not attendance. She noted the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s waiver that will allow the state to continue meal programs while schools are closed, and she said she is willing to sign a law to waive the instructional time requirement for time missed from school through April 12 and for longer if necessary,
Reynolds encouraged all Iowans to make an effort to prevent the spread of the nvel coronavirus.
“I am also calling upon each and every Iowa to be an active part of our statewide mitigation strategy. You really can make a difference. Now is a critical time when we can mitigate and slow the spread of the virus in our state, but it takes all of us working together and doing the right things to make that happen. So I just urge all of you to follow the CDC guidelines and take preventative measures to protect your health and the health of other.”
Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend also announced assistance for workers and employers impacted by layoffs related to COVID-19. The IWD guidance included information for employees filing for unemployment insurance claims and information on programs available for employers.
Perry’s Peterson said the governor will lead a teleconference with the Iowa League of Cities Tuesday and that additional information on protocols for public meetings and continuity of government operations is expected.
In other business, the Perry City Council approved the budget for the 2021 fiscal year, including a 13-cent increase in the property tax levy rate to $17.93603 per $1,000 of property valuation.The motion carried unanimously.