Public Health and Government

Des Moines Water Works is operating under a four-phase Contagious Disease Response Plan, closing the general office building to walk-in customers, suspending in-home customer services visits except for emergencies and suspending service termination for delinquent accounts, the organization announced Monday afternoon. The organization is stockpiling chemicals, repair parts and other supplies to ensure continued production and distribution of safe drinking water. A full statement and more information on payment and service options is available online

The Iowa Department of Transportation is requiring that individuals make an appointment for services at Iowa DOT driver and identification service centers, the department announced Monday evening. Appointments can be made online or by calling 515-244-8725. 

Business
Cybersecurity firm PC Matic is offering free cybersecurity protection services for Iowa companies implementing work-from-home policies in response to the spread of COVID-19. The platform PC Matic Pro will be offered free of charge to Iowa businesses with 10 or more remote workstations, and all onboarding and support services will be available at no charge. Businesses will have access to this service until June 30. Access and more information is available online

Dollar General will be dedicating the first hour of every shopping day to senior shoppers at all national stores, the company headquarters announced late Monday. The change allows customers vulnerable to COVID-19 to complete their shopping trips while avoiding crowds. Other customers are encourage to plan around this time. All stores will also close one hour earlier than normal hours to allow cleaning and restocking. A company statement is available online

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is asking metro businesses to complete a survey and report how organizations are being affected, how they are addressing organizational needs and what the Partnership can offer. The organization is also planning virtual events, including a Wednesday seminar on remote selling practices from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Hy-Vee is reassigning employees in stores to meet increased demands in Hy-Vee Aisles Online orders just weeks after the company announced it intended to permanently end filing online grocery orders at its four fulfillment centers, laying off about 300 people in the process. In a statement emailed to customers on Monday, Hy-Vee said it is working with third-party partners to meet increased demand. Although the store is restocking daily, Hy-Vee also reported that some items are being sold out in between online orders and the actual delivery, and customers will not be charged for sold-out items they ordered online. The company had announced plans to end online grocery orders at fulfillment centers earlier this month, saying that customers preferred same-day pickup requiring grocery stores to fulfill online orders. 

Health Care
The American Red Cross and LifeServe Blood Center are facing severe shortages in donations due to the number of blood drives being canceled during the COVID-19 spread, the organizations announced this week. The American Red Cross reports that in Iowa and Wisconsin, 67 blood drives have been canceled, resulting in 2,596 fewer blood donations by Tuesday. Nationally, cancellations have resulted in 86,000 fewer blood donations. The Red Cross is adding appointment slots at donation centers as they expect the number of blood drive cancellations to continue to increase, and asks donors to make appointments online. LifeServe has had nearly 4,000 blood drives canceled nationally, resulting in approximately 130,000 fewer donations than expected; around 500 of those lost donations come from drives planned in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. LifeServe is extending donor center hours in Des Moines, Urbandale and four other Iowa centers and asks donors to make appointments online. There is no data or evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and patients battling cancer, trauma, premature babies or mothers in delivery will continue to need blood during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizations said separately. 

The YMCA of Greater Des Moines is closed until March 31, affecting six membership branches and Y-Camp Days. The Y asks members who are able to continue paying their membership dues to ensure services continue following reopening. A full statement is available online

The Young Women’s Resource Center office in Des Moines will be closed for four weeks and all groups and programs for this duration have been canceled through Monday, April 13, the organization posted on its website. YWRC staff will continue to provide critical resources and support and will be coordinating these efforts directly with participants to ensure that safety precautions are observed. Staff will also continue to work remotely during this time. These cancellations include the Empowerment Workshops originally scheduled for March 18 and 19. In lieu of hosting these workshops, YWRC will be providing take-home DIY kits to those who had registered. Counseling during the closure will be offered via phone or video chat as set up by YWRC providers. The YWRC will not be receiving any in-kind donations during the time of closure. The YWRC Gala has been rescheduled from April 18 to June 27. More information regarding this decision and the Gala can be found at ywrc.org/gala.

Arts and Culture
The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and Trellis Cafe are closed through March 31, the organization announced Monday afternoon. All events and programs will be postponed or canceled. The Botanical Garden plans to reopen on April 1 but will continue to follow recommendations from state and federal public health authorities, the organization said. Ongoing updates will be available online

The Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates in Des Moines will discontinue public tours and will close the facility to the public until at least April 15, the World Food Prize Foundation announced. “The health and safety of Hall of Laureates visitors, staff and volunteers is a top priority. Due to the rapidly changing nature of the situation, we will carefully monitor and follow national, state and city restrictions and recommendations, announcing a date to reopen as soon as prudent. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,” the organization said. The Hall of Laureates’ online resources are available on its website at www.halloflaureates.org

United Way of Central Iowa’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) free tax preparation service is closed for the 2020 tax season.?Residents who qualify for free tax filing services can consider using these online resources: IRS Free File Online or H&R Block’s MyFreeTaxes. Individuals without access to the internet are encouraged to call the Internal Revenue Service toll free at 800-829-1040 for advice.

The Des Moines Playhouse is closing through at least April 12, the organization announced today. All performances of “Singin’ in the Rain” are suspended and new dates will be announced in the coming weeks; tickets for performances originally scheduled for March 15-April 4 will be honored at the new shows. All other programming, including spring break workshops, children’s performances, rehearsals and volunteer opportunities, is canceled or suspended. More information on specific programming is available online.

Education
Mercy College closes campus amid spread of COVID-19
Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines announced that beginning Wednesday, the college will no longer permit faculty, staff, students or visitors on campus. Due to positive cases at MercyOne and around Central Iowa, all clinical and preceptor experiences have also been canceled. This precaution will continue until further notice. All classes will return fully online on March 30. The change extends spring break by an additional week. During this time, Mercy College has made investments in technology resources to ensure staff and faculty can continue to provide support to all current and prospective students remotely, the college said in a news release. All classes and support services will be made available online for free. Students are encouraged to contact their instructors, academic adviser, admissions department, or other areas of the College as appropriate. More information and future updates are available on the college’s website.

The Urbandale Community School district has closed all classes and programming until further notice. Ongoing updates will be available online. The district confirmed Monday evening that a district employee at Karen Acres Elementary tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently in quarantine, reported KCCI.