Guest Opinion | We can beat COVID-19 in Iowa City, but we have to do it together

Three city councilors encourage the community to unite in fighting the pandemic.

A+mask+sits+on+the+Irving+B.+Weber+statue+in+front+of+Van+Allen+on+Thursday%2C+March+12%2C+2020.+++The+US+has+seen+a+shortage+of+N95+surgical+masks+in+the+recent+weeks+due+to+coronavirus.+The+CDC+currently+recommends+the+use+of+facemarks+be+reserved+for+those+who+are+sick+or+for+those+who+are+caring+for+the+sick.+

Katie Goodale

A mask sits on the Irving B. Weber statue in front of Van Allen on Thursday, March 12, 2020. The US has seen a shortage of N95 surgical masks in the recent weeks due to coronavirus. The CDC currently recommends the use of facemarks be reserved for those who are sick or for those who are caring for the sick.


Iowa City — and Johnson County — take a deep breath (through your mask). Some 30,000 people came into town over the past two weeks and most are here to stay. Our COVID numbers are spiking. In other words, we have an outbreak. Instead of panicking, let’s think both short- and long-term.

Speaking as someone who worked really hard for implementation of a face covering mandate, which exists in both Iowa City and Johnson County, we need to listen to the scientists and focus relentlessly on education and enforcement. UIHC, the VA, and Mercy combined offer us unparalleled expertise and resources. Let’s use it.

Often, enforcement is as simple as handing out a mask or shield and explaining. Some need more persuasion – or a citation. Education, with 30,000 students from all over the country where every state and often every municipality has different rules and regulations, must be constant and relentless. Politics has been mixed with science, to our detriment. It is up to us to be consistent and persistent.

We need constant PR campaigns, aimed at all segments of our diverse population. We need signage and more signage. We need reminders, public statements and press conferences. We need regular stories in the media (thank you, local papers and TV stations). Perhaps we even need daily reminders that pop up on our phones.

We must work with healthcare professionals and business owners. We need businesses to pledge to adhere to our local and state rules — and to be held accountable if they do not, by one another in addition to by the public, the city, the university and law enforcement.

We know that some segments of our population are at higher risk than others. We need to partner with the medical and nonprofit communities to reach out to our BIPOC communities to deal proactively with any underlying medical conditions. And we need to ramp up testing for our entire community.

COVID is exhausting — it saps our energy and our finances, it has robbed people of jobs and livelihoods. It has changed our lives. We cannot allow ourselves to become numb to it.

This is not town versus gown. This must be every segment of our population working together to take the actions needed to drive down our infection rates and cut the chain of COVID transmission. No matter your age: avoid super spreader events. Wear a face covering, practice social distancing, stay home if you can. And above all, don’t become complacent or give up — the virus won’t and we can’t afford to.

—Janice Weiner, Laura Bergus, Susan Mims, City Councilors

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