Liveblog: Iowa Confirms First Death Associated With COVID-19; 124 Cases Of COVID-19 Identified

Iowa businesses, school districts and citizens continue to respond to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic. We'll be posting updates as more news regarding the spread of the virus in Iowa becomes available here for the week of March 22-28.

Do you have questions about how the outbreak is being handled in Iowa? Fill out this form, and we'll try to answer as many of your questions as we can with our reporting. 

Find a map of cases in Iowa by county here. Find more information from the Iowa Department of Public Health here. 

Find a map of cases across the U.S. here. 

Iowa map
Infogram

Tuesday, March 24

8:14 p.m. – Iowa confirms first COVID-19 death

The state reported Iowa's first confirmed death associated with the new coronavirus Tuesday evening.

The person was between the ages of 61 and 80, and lived in Dubuque County. State officials did not release any other details about the individual.

"Our hearts are heavy with the first loss of an Iowan to COVID-19," Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement. "The thoughts and prayers of our state are with the family during this difficult time." 

4:51 p.m. – COVID-19 hospitalizations increase

Seventeen Iowans are hospitalized as of Tuesday afternoon with COVID-19. That’s up from seven hospitalizations on Monday. One person has been discharged. This includes nine Iowans who were in the hospital prior to being tested for the new coronavirus.

Gov. Kim Reynolds says it’s still a relatively small number of people in the hospital and the big jump in numbers can partly be attributed to who the state hygienic lab is prioritizing for COVID-19 testing.

The Iowa Department of Public Health says it’s using the percentage of COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization as one of their data points for recommending actions to the governor.

3:31 p.m. – Home remodel inspections delayed

Concerns about COVID-19 are limiting inspections on completed remodeling projects in some parts of the state, which is causing headaches for people who want to go to their house and shelter in place.

Prior to the state disaster declaration, demand for remodeling projects was booming. Many contractors were scheduling work 6 months in advance. 

2:36 p.m. – Schools are sharing learning resources for families to use at home

Schools around the state are sharing more learning resources for families to use at home while isolating themselves, including apps and websites for different ages and subjects. The goal is to keep children engaged, but parents should not feel like they have to turn their homes into classrooms.

Many schools are also trying to help students with no Internet at home. In Iowa City families can request a connection to be paid for by the district.

2:32 p.m. - University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics running its own COVID-19 tests

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics now has the ability to run its own COVID-19 tests in-house. Hospital officials say the capabilities are still limited and depend on supplies of key products like testing swabs.

As of now, testing will be limited to those who have had a video visit with the hospital and have been directed to a specific clinic for testing, or those who are inpatients.

Screenings will not be available to the general public, but officials say the step expands statewide capacity, which until now relied on the State Hygienic Lab and some private labs.

Read more via IPR's Kate Payne. 

11:43 a.m. – Cedar Rapids not-for-profit expands teletherapy

Tanager Place, a children’s mental health care not-for-profit based in Cedar Rapids, is offering teletherapy for Iowans of all ages.

"We know people of all ages are feeling the pressure of this new environment, and that our organization has the ability to step up and help," said Tonya Hotchkin, vice president of clinical services in an email. 

The center is accepting new clients of all ages and is offering individual, family and group therapy as well as mental health assessments via teletherapy. Get in touch with Tanager Place outpatient services by emailing theraphyreferral@tanagerplace.org or by calling (319) 286-4545.

11:03 a.m. - 124 total positive cases of COVID-19 identified in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Public Health has been notified of 19 additional positive cases of Iowans with COVID-19, bringing the total to 124 positive cases. To date, there have been 2,315 negative tests conducted by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs. 

Monday, March 23

5:01 p.m. – Absentee voting period extended

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is extending the absentee voting period to 40 days for people who want to vote by mail in the June 2 primary. His office is encouraging people to vote this way to reduce the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19.

People can ask their county auditor for an absentee ballot. The voting period for mailed ballots will start April 23.

4:38 p.m. – Cedar Rapids suspends its bus service

The state’s second-largest city suspend its fixed-route bus service beginning this Wednesday, March 25 and lasting until April 13. City officials say the step comes at a critical moment and is necessary to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Those who need a ride to a health care appointment can call the Linn County LIFTS service. Employees of essential services like hospitals and grocery stores can request a free ride to work through the non-profit Neighborhood Transportation Service.

3:36 p.m. Gov. Reynolds announces COVID-19 small business relief program

The state is planning to use some of the governor’s new spending authority for grants for businesses with two to 25 employees that have been disrupted by efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

The program offers $5,000 to $25,000 in grant money. To be eligible, a business must be experiencing disruption due to the pandemic and have employed between two to 25 people prior to March 17.  

“This is a stopgap to basically keep doors open, because the first thing we’re dealing with is keeping as many people as employed as possible. Second is liquidity, and so this is a stopgap until the resources from the federal government begin to flow,” said Debbie Durham, who is director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, at the governor’s 2:30 p.m. press conference Monday.

IPR's Katarina Sostaric has more on this story.

12:00 p.m. Iowa’s regent universities establish student emergency assistance funds

Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa have launched funds to help students with urgent needs who need help with the transition of moving home to learn and live off campus for the duration of the spring semester.

Last week, all three state universities announced they would be canceling spring commencement and asking students to finish their coursework for the 2019-2020 school year online.

10: 56 a.m. - New COVID-19 cases identified 

The Iowa Department of Public Health has identified 15 more positive cases of COVID-19 in Iowa, bringing the total 105 positive cases. According to IDPH, the locations and age ranges of the 15 individuals include:

  • Allamakee County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
  • Dubuque County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Hancock County, 2 older adults (61-80 years)
  • Johnson County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)
  • Linn County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
  • Muscatine County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
  • Polk County, 1 adult (18-40 years),  1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
  • Wapello County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Woodbury County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)

Sunday, March 22

4:01 p.m. - Gov. Reynolds announces additional closures

Governor Kim Reynolds has ordered the closure of hair and nail salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors and swimming pools. The mandatory closures were effective at 10 p.m. and also apply to spas, tanning facilities and massage therapy establishments. These additional closures are effective through March 31. 

11:21 a.m. - 22 additional COVID-19 cases announced

The Iowa Department of Public Health has been notified of 22 additional COVID-19 cases in Iowa. That brings the total number of cases to 90 in the state - 45 of which were identified this weekend.

Today's cases were identified as residents of Cerro Gordo (2), Dallas (1), Dubuque (2), Harrison (2), Johnson (5), Kossuth (1), Linn (1), Poweshiek (1), Scott (1), Sioux (1), Tama (3) Washington (1), and Woodbury (1) counties. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. It will be livestreamed through Iowa Public Radio's website.

 9:25 a.m. - University of Iowa Health Care urgently requests protective face shields

University of Iowa Health is urgently requesting Iowa businesses and individuals to donate new or used protective face shields to its hospital.

Hospitals officials say they currently have a supply for employees interacting with staff who work with patients or do screenings, but the additional masks would allow all employees who interact with patients, visitors and co-workers to wear one. 

To donate protective face shields or other personal protective gear, visit the hospital's website, uihc.org/kind-donations, or call concierge services at (319) 356-1900 or (319) 678-5500.