Representatives from local government, cities, hospitals, school boards urge Iowans to prepare for rise in cases

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague led an emergency joint entities meeting to discuss the importance of following health and safety guidelines.


Nichole Harris/The Daily Iowan

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague addresses the crowd at an Iowa City City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.

Rachel Schilke and Brian Grace

Representatives from local government, school systems, and hospitals urged Iowans to prepare for a rise in COVID-19 cases and continue to adhere to state and county health and safety guidelines.

The Iowa City City Council and Johnson County Board of Supervisors hosted an emergency entities meeting on Thursday, with representatives from cities of Coralville, Hills, Iowa City, Lone Tree, North Liberty, Oxford, Shueyville, Solon, Tiffin, and University Heights, and the Iowa City Community School District and Clear Creek school boards, to discuss the uptick in the cases and the lack of resources many hospitals are experiencing across the state.

Johnson County Public Health Department Community Health Division Manager Sam Jarvis said during the meeting he wanted to emphasize the importance of contact tracing and taking the pandemic seriously.

“Unfortunately we’re not here to be able to deliver the best of news…we hope to greet all of you again and let you know when the pandemic is over but that is not today,” Jarvis said. “We’re pretty close to 8,000 cases and more than likely we will hit that mark sometime this weekend. To put that in perspective, we’ve seen roughly 1,000 of those cases since the beginning of November, so we are rapidly increasing cases by the day.”

He said one of the primary ways Johnson County Public Health can disrupt transmission of the virus is through their case investigations, which they do by reaching out to people who have been infected and getting a list of who that person has been in contact with.

“If there’s one thing we could really plead to our community today is, please return calls, please make contact with us,” Jarvis said. “We’re trying to reach you as quickly as possible and when we have delays in that, that certainly delays the information that we need to establish your infectious period and be able to make contact with your close contacts.”

Iowa Sen. Joe Bolkcom said the state legislature has been relatively lax on addressing the pandemic.

“I think everybody’s quite disappointed in the state’s response to protecting Iowans and trying to balance what goes on in our communities with saving lives,” Bolkcom said. “The governor is pretty much solely responsible for the State’s response, the legislature has not really had much voice at all in any of the decisions…unfortunately it seems like the message from her is you’re on your own.”

Iowa Rep. Dave Jacoby agreed with Bolckom and added that in his opinion, Gov. Kim Reynolds had “completely failed” with her lack of response to the pandemic.

Iowa City City Councilor Janice Weiner said with the holidays coming up, Iowa City wants to keep everyone safe. The precautions are temporary, she emphasized, with a vaccine in the making, the virus will most likely not be present a year from now. Damage can be minimized if precautions are taken now.

COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing, she said, with 30 deaths and 1,200 Iowans hospitalized throughout the state and 166 new positive cases recorded in Johnson County as of Thursday.

“Public health is not a popularity contest,” she said. “It’s about public health and keeping everyone safe. I am worried about our community, we are all worried about our communities that are more vulnerable: elderly people, the BIPOC community, those with pre-existing conditions. The mask you wear today is not going to just protect others, it’s going to protect you too.”