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Fayette County citizens have set to work prepping to prevent the spread of the 2019 new coronavirus pandemic, from Fayette County’s Gundersen Palmer Community Health opening an Incident Command station for an all-hours response to stores warning off refilling fountain drinks, from postponements of the Fayette County Democrats County Convention and Pheasants Forever Banquet to area churches taking extra precautions with communion foods, to the theater, Wellness Center and hospital taking extra care with sanitation.

Iowa Public Health officials are now reporting 17 confirmed cases in the state. Patients in Carroll and Harrison counties in Western Iowa were added to the areas with confirmed cases, joining Pottawattamie in the southwest and Johnson County in the southeast. Johnson County makes up the bulk of cases, and all are travel-related.

Gundersen Palmer Community Health has opened up a Public Health Incident Command location owing to the increased number of calls and community requests, and this requires a Public Health staff member be on-call every day at all hours, Fayette Public Health Coordinator Jes Wegner said in an email late Friday.

“We continue to work with schools, colleges, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, hospitals, daycare centers, emergency management, etc. as details unfold and needs arise,” Wegner said.

“We have collected the PPE [personal protective equipment] assessment and information will be coming in the next week.”

She referenced Iowa Public Health and Centers for Disease Control websites for more information on the new coronavirus.

“Remember to call 2-1-1 for any COVID-19 questions — patients and community members can be directed to 2-1-1 as well,” Wegner said.

Stores take a serious tone on soda refills

Signs are posted on the doors of the downtown Oelwein stores.

“We are temporarily discontinuing the use of refillable mugs and cups at our fountains in the interest of the well-being of our guests and team members,” the Casey sign says. “Please use our disposable cups and thank you for your patience.”

Kwik Star has a no-refill sign as well. An explanation posted on its corporate Facebook page outlines steps its taking to prevent the virus spread.

“We continuously monitor our bathrooms and wipe down all commonly contacted surfaces in our stores at lease every 60 minutes to ensure continued cleanliness,” the statement says. “We will be temporarily discontinuing food sampling and reallocating labor hours towards cleaning and sanitation efforts. We will also be discontinuing the use of refillable mugs and cups in our stores.”

The statement encourages customers to use the hand sanitizer provided at the gas pumps and in the store, as well.

“As a customer, and not an employee, properly sanitize your refillable cups, lids and straws!” said Brianna Gettings on a Daily Register Facebook post on this story.

— Chris Baldus, editor

• • • •

{h3 style=”text-align: left;”}Theatre taking extra steps to protect patrons{/h3}

The Grand Theatre in downtown Oelwein is taking extra precautions because of the COVID-19 situation, and is also dealing possible movie opening delays.

“We are taking extra measures for sanitation,” said Cindy Kime, manager of the non-profit theater. “We sanitized all chair arms. We regularly sanitize door handles, restroom surfaces and food surfaces.

“We have always had hand sanitizer available for employees and patrons. We will also have sanitizing wipes available if patrons are more comfortable wiping down their arm rests.

“Employees are encouraged to stay home if ill, and to wash hands more frequently than usual.

“At this time, we will still honor our combo refills as usual, patrons will handle lids and straws.

“Some movie companies are delaying openings of upcoming films, we will adapt as needed. Changes will be posted on our website, and our facebook page,”

— Chris Baldus, editor

• • • •

MercyOne implements visitor restrictions

MercyOne Northeast Iowa — of which the Oelwein Medical Center is part — announced new visitor restrictions Friday morning.

MercyOne is following the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 recommendations and “are acting with an abundance of caution to ensure we do not elevate the risk of exposure to the virus for our colleagues, physicians, patients or community members,” a news release says.

Only visits from immediate family members, loved ones or clergy who meet the following criteria will be permitted:

• All visitors stop at front desk for screening.

• Two family members per resident at a time.

• No visitors under 14 years of age.

• Visits limited to one resident (no visiting multiple residents).

— Chris Baldus, editor

A sign posted on the door to the MercyOne Clinic on the north side of the MercyOne hospital in Oelwein said anyone with a fever or cough is required to wear a mask. Masks were available at the west entrance to the hospital. Additionally, signs were posted at frequent intervals asking visitors with flu-like symptoms not to visit hospital patients and warning that they may be asked to leave.

— Mira Schmitt-Cash, reporter

• • • •

Democrats postpone County Convention

The Fayette County Democrats County Convention has been postponed, the party announced on Facebook and linked to a recommendation to do so from Iowa Democrats Chair Mark Smith.

“After extensive consultation with County Chairs, the State Central Committee, party leaders, and public health officials, we have come to the determination that the spreading coronavirus poses a risk that outweighs a temporary delay in moving the caucus-to-convention process forward,” Smith said.

“At this time we do not have a date, time, or location set for the convention,” the Fayette County Democrats post said. “If you are a delegate who has already received your materials, please keep those. We will be in contact with you once we are ready to proceed with the next steps. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to do what is best for all our county members.”

• • • •

Pheasants Forever postpones banquet

The Fayette County Pheasants Forever Banquet will be postponed until Saturday, June 13.

The Pheasants Forever Board of Directors indicated this is the most prudent decision they can make for the overall health and safety of their supporters.

Tickets that have already been purchased will be honored and accepted for the June 13 date.

— Deb Kunkle, city editor

• • • •

Churches take precautions, such as Antioch Christian

Area churches are instituting precautions.

The Rev. Adam Graunke with Antioch Christian Church in Oelwein noted responses the church is taking in addition to heightened vigilance with regard to the 2019 novel coronavirus illness, COVID-19.

The church is practicing social distancing and encouraging others to do the same.

Greeters will smile and wave rather than shaking hands.

“We encourage everyone to do the same as they greet people in the lobby and during services,” Graunke said.

Communion wafers will be dispensed in a second cup stacked under the juice cup.

“Increased cleaning measures have been implemented throughout the church, wiping down frequently touched surfaces using germicide cleaners designed specifically to kill the Coronavirus,” Graunke said.

“Additional hand sanitizer dispensers have been placed throughout the church.

“Our Student and Children’s ministries are being diligent in their precautions, similar to above, and will still be meeting,” he said.

— Mira Schmitt-Cash, reporter

Christ United Presbyterian common-sense rules for congregation

Christ United Presbyterian Church in Oelwein has provided a simple set of common-sense rules for members of the congregation to follow:

• Consider learning to bow to others you see at church instead of shaking hands or hugging. It is suggested to put hands in a praying position and then bow as a sign of respect for one another

• Consider sitting at least three feet apart from other people in church

• Wash hands thoroughly before entering worship

• Have communion preparers wear gloves

• Use unleavened bread and individual cups rather than a common chalice

• Give your pastor a bow after worship.

The church has a flyer prepared by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, “Guidance for Congregations,” that is available in the sanctuary.

— Deb Kunkle, city editor

• • • •

Wellness Center

The Williams Wellness Center, which is managed separately from the Oelwein Schools, is using gym wipes to sanitize high-touch surfaces, says Jessica Burkhart, Wellness Center facilitator and instructor.

The Wellness Center announced late Friday it was canceling Silver Sneakers on Monday. Class will resume on Wednesday.

— Mira Schmitt-Cash, reporter