COVID-19 causes cancellations and disruptions

Iowans are doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19, which the World Health Organization is calling a pandemic. As of Sunday, March 15, there were 22 presumed cases of the disease in Iowa, and Governor Kim Reynolds has signed a disaster proclamation.

Large gatherings of people are being canceled across the nation and right here in northern Iowa, to halt the spread of the disease.

The most significant of these cancellations for local families will likely be the cancellation of classes at North Iowa Community School. The school alerted families on Sunday that the school would be closed for a few days for cleaning, but classes are now canceled indefinitely after Governor Reynolds recommended Sunday night that schools close for four weeks.

“Everything’s on hold,” said North Iowa Supt. Joe Erickson. “Things over the past five days have changed pretty dramatically at least once every 24 hours.” All activities at the school, including the high school musical scheduled for this weekend, have been postponed indefinitely. The State Individual Speech Contest scheduled last Saturday was canceled.

Spring sports and other school activities throughout the state are on hold for four weeks. The Iowa High School Athletic Association, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, the Iowa High School Music Association, and the Iowa High School Speech Association say all spring activities will be prohibited during the four-week closure, which currently extends through April 10.

Erickson said the school board planned to discuss at their March 16 meeting when North Iowa might resume classes. Precautions will also be taken when holding board meetings, as Erickson says the board plans to meet in the school’s makerspace where members can sit further apart, and they may also have some board members call in to future meetings instead of attending in person.

Erickson says they hope to be able to reschedule activities like the musical sometime down the road.

Area colleges are also taking precautions, with NIACC postponing face-to-face classes this week and working to deliver most of its classes online until further notice. Waldorf University has extended its spring break through this week and plans to announce Thursday whether classes will resume face-to-face or online.

Iowa’s regent universities are moving toward providing virtual instruction, and they are recalling all students and faculty who are overseas.

Community events canceled

Various groups are also cancelling community events that were scheduled for the coming weeks. The Lakota Community Club decided last week to cancel its annual Pancake Day, which had been planned for this Saturday.

A 90th birthday celebration for LeRoy Weaver was going to be held on Sunday at the Heritage Town Center, but that will be postponed to a later date.

Bethlehem Lutheran Church is cancelling its Wednesday night meals for the time being, although Lenten services will still be held. The church has also decided to postpone a craft and vendor show that was scheduled for March 28.

Heartland Power Cooperative is changing plans for its annual meeting, which was scheduled for Tuesday, March 24 at St. Ansgar. Food and entertainment are canceled this year, but Heartland still plans to hold director elections. A new location for the meeting is being decided but was not available at press time.

The Buffalo Center Historical Society has postponed its program on paper dolls, which was scheduled for March 29 at the Heritage Town Center.

The Christian Women’s Club meeting scheduled for April 8 has been canceled.

The Bison Senior Center canceled its monthly birthday party scheduled for Wednesday, Mar. 18. Linda Berhow from the senior center says they’re waiting to hear if they’ll need to make other changes because of health concerns.

Winn-Worth Betco is postponing the legislative forums scheduled for this Friday, including one that was to be held at the Heritage Town Center. Winn-Worth Betco plans to try again in 30 days. The organization is also postponing census events, including one that was to be held at Bethany Lutheran Church in Thompson on Saturday.

Nursing home closed

Timely Mission Nursing Home in Buffalo Center is closing its doors to visitors to prevent the spread of illness, effective Monday, March 16.

Area hospitals are also implementing restrictions on visitors, as both MercyOne North Iowa and Kossuth Regional Health Center will limit visitors to two per patient. Visitors must also be free from COVID-19 symptoms including fever, sore throat, cough, diarrhea, vomiting and runny nose.