SUNDAY TALK: Upmeyer on COVID-19 Interrupts Life As We Know It

As you know by now, the Iowa Legislature suspended session late on March 16 for 30 days.  It may be necessary to extend it further, but we will be back to finish our work when it is safe to do so.  It was important to lead by example as the Governor made her decisions on keeping Iowa as safe as possible.  If anyone has questions, please let me know.

Late Monday evening, we passed a bill that did several things to give the Governor more flexibility in our absence.  Supplemental appropriations were passed for Medicaid, Hawk-I, and the Glenwood Resource Center.  The Governor was also granted more authority to transfer funds between departments, if needed.  Finally, Governor Reynolds was granted authority to spend up to 10% of the Economic Emergency Fund to address this current emergency.  The Legislative Council can grant any additional requirements.

The Governor has recommended closing schools, as well.  Schools have been given the guidance they need to proceed over the course of the next few weeks.  The days students miss through April 12 will be forgiven. That date may change as we move forward, as this is a fluid situation.  Many of the questions I have been receiving from schools were related to federal funds and requirements.  I was on a call with the White House a couple days ago to gain a better understanding of the situation.  It is very clear that they are working closely with schools to answer their questions and giving “guidance” on the common questions.  Many waivers for K-12 have been issued already.

There are numerous websites and newsletters that address precautions.  I would direct your attention to the CDC website, as well as the Iowa and County Public Health websites.  These are great and kept up-to-date.  In the end, I believe that plain common sense will serve us well.  Stay home as much as you can!  Wash hands, get plenty of rest, cover your cough, practice social distancing, stay away from crowds…there is much we can do personally to be safe.  There are so many that are working steadfastly to keep us safe and I want to take time to recognize those people who are going above and beyond.  I can only touch on a few but you know who you are.

First, thank you to the school administrators, teachers, and all staff who are working so hard to help keep kids learning.  Online coursework and using video tools to switch from face-to-face classes is HARD!  But that is what teachers are doing in the hope that kids don’t fall too far behind.  It won’t be perfect and there will be kids that may not have access despite every best effort.  But this is a time we must do what we can for as many as we can.  Parents will need to help in this effort, too.  This can be trying, but I have great confidence in our families to do their very best.  We are very fortunate that there are numerous educational websites to keep kids learning to augment the school efforts, as well.  Someday these kids will express their thanks.  But I want to start now and I hope you will join me in thanking our educators!

Thank you to our healthcare workforce!  As you know, I’m a nurse.  I’ve been through some emergencies and some hard times in healthcare, but nothing of this scope where we have to prepare for the worst and then hope for the best.  These are brave souls who go to work in the hospitals and clinics to treat the sick and don’t know if any of the patients have COVID-19 when they come through the doors.  One of the best arguments I have heard for all of us to do our part, is so they can do theirs.  If we can contain this to lower levels of exposure, our medical staff members will be safer.  My daughter is a healthcare provider, and I know she worries about her family’s safety as she goes to and from work.  Lend a hand to these folks if you can.  And be sure to thank them!

The acts of kindness and the spirit of community I have witnessed are inspiring.  The Chambers of Commerce and others who are organizing the ideas and facilitating these efforts are doing a wonderful job!  Great networks have been set up to help people with grocery shopping, meal drop offs and other needs.   Thank you to everyone who is doing an errand for a friend or a neighbor who needs help.  Thank you for buying gift cards and ordering pick up meals.  I know that is not in everyone’s budget, but if you CAN, help support the community in some way.  Do what you can to help the people and small businesses in our communities. Thank You!

And finally, if you can give blood, do so.  We are facing a shortage because all the usual blood drives have been canceled.  However, YOU can make an appointment with LifeServe or another blood bank to give.  They are still taking blood, individually. Please consider this as a way to give back. My appointment is Monday.

Please follow the guidelines to be as safe as you can and help limit the spread.  You’ve seen the data.  Preventing even one case dramatically lowers the spread of the virus.  Since I won’t be in the Capitol, you can reach me by email at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or call my home at 641-357-8807 with questions.  Stay well!

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