Life After Outbreak; Perry Adjusts To “New Normal”

Community members in Perry are adjusting to a new normal nearly a month after 730 employees at their local Tyson plant tested positive for COVID-19.

Appointments are required at the local barbershop, garages aren’t being used for 3D printing face shields anymore and seniors at Perry High School have an addition to their graduation attire.

The Iowa town roughly 30 minutes northwest of Des Moines in Dallas County became a major hot spot for COVID-19 in mid-April. The community prepared and responded to the outbreak by distributing 6,000 cloth face coverings to residents, offering “grab and go” breakfast and lunches at the elementary school and assisting with rent payments.

A partnership between the city of Perry and its local chamber of commerce made $30 gift cards available to local businesses for $20. As of May 13, the program had provided more than $60,000 to Perry businesses.

Graduation at Perry High School is scheduled for June 14. Alexa Zarate, a senior, said in addition to the traditional cap and gown, her classmates will be provided with a “Class of 2020” mask.

On Friday, May 22, Zarate said teachers and staff did a “Scoop the Loop” event to honor the senior class.

“That was a nice way to represent the seniors,” Zarate, 18, said. “And they gave us two posters to show their support.”

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Zarate’s mother and father both tested positive for COVID-19 in April. She said her dad is back at work—at the local Tyson plant—while her mom is suffering from side effects from COVID-19.

“My dad has said Tyson is enforcing those new regulations now and it’s been a big difference between now and back then,” Zarate says. “The scare has passed a little, it isn’t over, but Tyson has been doing much better in enforcing PPE.”

As of Thursday, May 28, Dallas County had 792 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths.

Justus Williams was using his garage to store four 3D printers that were used to print face shields. After printing 150, he says the need has been met locally.

“I have been talking with other places in Iowa to see if they need any, but a lot have been telling me the demand has been met,” Williams, 19, says. “I’m waiting to give one of the printers back to the school since they loaned me one and I can get my garage back to normal.”

When most of the community was shut down, Williams said he used a pair of five gallon buckets to make cement and create his own weight plates. Now that the local gym is open, he’s been going out—while also supporting local businesses.

“We’ve entered a new normal,” Williams says. “Now it’s weird seeing people without masks to be honest. But Perry isn’t doing bad, we’re adjusting. People are supporting our local businesses and everyone is adapting.”


by Joey Aguirre
Posted 5/28/20

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