Iowa Legislature will pause for at least a month after community spread of the coronavirus confirmed in Iowa


Katie Goodale

The Iowa State Capitol building is seen in Des Moines on April 9, 2019.

Caleb McCullough, Assistant Politics Editor

The Iowa Legislature will shutter for at least 30 days, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and state health officials confirmed Saturday a case of community spread of the coronavirus in Iowa. Community spread is when the source of an infection can’t be determined.

“The decision was made in consultation with the Department of Public Health and Governor’s Office based on recommendations from the Center for Disease Control related to mass gatherings to protect vulnerable populations,” the Iowa House Republicans said in a press release Sunday.

The House and Senate will convene Monday, according to the press release, to draw up resolutions to ensure certain essential services remain functioning.

The Capitol will open Monday, and any staff or guests will be undergo a health screening, including filling out a questionnaire and giving a temperature reading, the press release said. All events scheduled at the Capitol have been canceled.

Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, was the first to call for a pause to the legislative session to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in a tweet on Thursday.

“The experts at the national level are all recommending that we avoid large scale gatherings,” Hogg said in an interview on Thursday. “And in my mind, the Iowa legislative session, when you invite hundreds, maybe thousands of people to the state capitol every day is a large scale gathering.”

At the time, the Iowa Department of Public Health was not recommending any cancellation of large gatherings, but after a case of community spread was identified, the department recommended to avoid gatherings of more than 250 people.

Confirmed Saturday, the individual is between the ages of 61 and 80 and resides in Dallas County.

The upcoming week would have been a busy one for lawmakers in Des Moines, who would be working to pass bills through before the second legislative funnel. Bills needed to pass at least one chamber of the legislature by March 20 to be alive past the legislative deadline.

Hogg said the funnel could be easily delayed with a resolution.

“That’s a legislative rule and we can change that legislative rule,” he said. “That would be a simple resolution passed by both chambers in the House and Senate.”