Iowa legislative leaders have decided to suspend the current legislative session for at least 30 days, as a measure to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. The decision comes a day after Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health announced the first known community spread of the virus. A resident of Dallas County is the first Iowan known to test positive that wasn’t related to recent travel or other cases.
The Legislature will convene briefly on Monday to consider several “continuity of government” measures before leaving.
Public tours of the Capitol are being cancelled immediately, and for those arriving tomorrow, a health screening will be administered, including filling out a health history form and receiving a temperature reading.
All committee hearings have been cancelled, and standing committees will still meet on an as-needed basis.
The move to shut down the Legislature for the time being shows a stricter approach to the pandemic by Reynolds and legislative leaders than they were contemplating earlier this week. As recently as Thursday, Speaker Pat Grassley questioned those, like Sen. Rob Hogg, who urged the Statehouse to temporarily close.
“Better safe than sorry? So then we would just shut everything down in reaction to something that we don’t have the evidence to do,” Grassley said when asked about taking precautionary steps. “I don’t agree with that assessment. We need be able to prepare to make changes, especially if you’re just talking about on this (Capitol) complex, we’re preparing ourselves. If that would need to happen, we will react appropriately. We’re not going to ignore the situation, but again, I have to rely on what we’re being told by the Department of Public Health.”
— Sarah Beckman (@SarahBeckman3) March 12, 2020
Despite the first occurrence of community spread in Iowa, state leaders are still not moving in the direction of other Midwestern states that are closing all schools or even ordering bars and restaurants to stop serving, as Illinois decided this weekend.
by Pat Rynard