COVID-19 interrupts daily life as it arrives in northern Iowa

The dining area at Main Street Market’s Farmhouse Kitchen is blocked off, as all Iowa restaurants and bars were ordered to close to the public by Gov. Kim Reynolds last week. Several area establishments are still offering carryout orders, including the Farmhouse Kitchen.

People around the world and right here in northern Iowa have had to make changes to their routines in recent days, as governments put measures in place to slow the spread of the viral respiratory illness known as COVID-19.

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds has called for the closure of schools, restaurants, bars, and other businesses where people congregate or have close contact with customers. Additional businesses are also choosing to close their doors as part of social distancing efforts.

Highlighting the importance of these protective measures is the arrival of COVID-19 in northern Iowa, with the first case identified in Kossuth County this Sunday and two cases identified in Hancock County on Monday. The Kossuth County patient is an adult between the ages of 18-40, and the Hancock County cases are both older adults between 61-80 years old. As of Monday, Iowa had 105 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

In the Buffalo Center area, all churches have suspended in-person services for the time being, as Gov. Reynolds has prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people. A few churches are taking advantage of technology to continue holding services in an online streaming format, including Bethlehem Lutheran and First Congregational churches of Buffalo Center and Community Chapel in Lakota.

Classes at North Iowa Community School will be cancelled until at least April 13, as the school follows the governor’s recommendation for a four-week closure. The school plans to begin online learning opportunities for students beginning this week, and a meal delivery program for kids also began on Monday.

Restaurants and bars were among the first businesses to be significantly impacted by the spread of COVID-19, as Gov. Reynolds ordered them to close on Tuesday, Mar. 17. Those businesses are still allowed to offer take-out food and deliveries, and some area businesses are doing so.

The Farmhouse Kitchen at Main Street Market has scaled back its hours but is still offering carryout orders, with daily lunch specials. The grocery store itself remains busy. There has been high demand for items like toilet paper, milk and eggs, but owner Barb Murra says they get more inventory in all the time. “There are plenty of groceries, and the trucks keep coming,” said Murra. “We just have to learn to adjust, and we’ll be back to normal hopefully soon.”

Hometown Market continues to operate as usual, with the exception that the dining room is closed. Manager Joanna Thompson says all their hot food is still available. On the grocery side, she says most items that have sold out have come back, although they still have a shortage of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. She expects that will get back to normal before long.

Some other businesses that serve food are also still going. The Barn opened for the season on March 17, and new managers Ed and Joyce Griffin are serving carryout meals with daily lunch specials and a new menu. The Rake Pub & Grub in Rake, Road Runners Bar & Grill in Lakota, and Squid Willy’s Bar & Grill in Thompson are all offering take-out orders.

Two businesses that are closed and not taking any orders at this time are The Branding Iron in Thompson and Buckets Bar & Grill in Buffalo Center.

Area libraries are also closed at this time, although online resources can still be accessed. The Buffalo Center, Lakota, Rake and Thompson libraries are all closed.