Public Health and Government
West Des Moines closing City Hall, other buildings to the public
West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer today authorized City Manager Tom Hadden to take all steps necessary to provide for the public health, safety and welfare of the city’s employees and residents. Hadden announced that City Hall will be closed to the public beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday. The closure is tentatively scheduled to end in mid- to late April. Although some city staff will work from home, Hadden said an appropriate number of employees will be working in the building during shifts to answer phones and conduct business online with residents. In addition to closing public access to City Hall, the Public Services building at 560 S. 16th St., the Raccoon River Park Nature Lodge and the Valley Junction Activity Center will be closed to the public. Although the front lobby of the police station will remain open to the public during regular business hours, residents are encouraged to use online services when appropriate. Residents can access the city’s website by clicking here

Business
FUELIowa, a nonprofit organization representing the fuel industry statewide, announced that its member convenience stores throughout Iowa will continue to provide essential services. FUELIowa President and CEO Ronald Langston said that Iowa convenience stores’ rural fuel distribution network remains strong during this time of emergency. To comply with the governor’s emergency directive, FUELIowa member retailers plan to close their dining areas, but will remain open for fuel, walk-in services and carry-out food services. “Our members are taking precautions to maintain the safety of family members, friends, neighbors and visitors,” Langston said in a statement. “Whether that means placing special emphasis on sanitizing door handles, credit card pads and counters, or regularly checking restrooms to ensure the highest standards of cleanliness are maintained, our members are serious about protecting the health and safety of Iowans.” FuelIowa members include fuel distributors, fuel cooperatives, convenience and grocery stores, refiners, biofuel producers and many other businesses that support these companies. 

Hy-Vee Inc. announced today that it is reserving shopping between 7 and 8 a.m. daily to customers who are 60 or older, and to expectant women and people with underlying health conditions. Pharmacies in most Hy-Vee locations will also be extending hours so they can serve this group of customers from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. These locations include pharmacies inside Hy-Vee grocery stores, Mainstreet locations, Dollar Fresh stores and Hy-Vee Drugstores. “We know that our customers are facing some very challenging times right now, and we want to do all we can to help them,” said Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s chairman, CEO and president. “We hope this new reserved shopping hour helps our customers feel a bit more secure while we work together as a community to help keep everyone healthy and safe.”

The Iowa Economic Development Authority is surveying businesses to assess the impact of the pandemic in Iowa. To assist in these efforts, the IEDA is asking business associations to forward the survey link to companies, attractions or other organizations within its memberships or communities. The agency has provided a guide for completing the survey, which was developed by the University of Northern Iowa Institute for Decision Making. The IEDA will use the information collected in the survey to inform its public policy in response to the crisis, as well as potential assistance to businesses. The deadline to complete the survey is March 23 at 5 p.m. 

Bank of America today announced it is committing $100 million to support local communities in need as the world faces unprecedented challenges from the coronavirus. The funds will help increase medical response capacity, address food insecurity, increase access to learning as a result of school closures, and provide support to the world’s most vulnerable populations, the bank said in a statement. “We must all work together as one global community – public and private sectors, as well as individuals – to address this healthcare and humanitarian crisis,” said Brian Moynihan, chairman and CEO of Bank of America. “As the needs in our local communities continue to rapidly escalate, we must take swift action to provide resources where there are gaps, and help local communities protect their most vulnerable populations.” The majority of Bank of America’s funds will be distributed on the ground in local markets, focused on both immediate needs facing local communities and providing ongoing support in the months ahead, the company said. 

AM Best Co. today revised its market segment outlook on the U.S. life/annuity segment to negative from stable, due to the significant volatility and uncertainty in the financial markets created by the COVID-19 virus. In AM Best’s view, the life/annuity industry maintains strong capital and liquidity resources. However, as detailed in a new Best’s Market Segment Report, several key factors have led to the revised outlook, among them a material acceleration in a global economic slowdown; and a rapid further deterioration in the U.S. economy. As interest rates and the equity markets plummet, AM Best expects operating performance to move to the negative, driven by declining sales and intensifying spread compression.

Health Care
The Iowa Clinic is now offering appointments for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) testing through a Mobile Testing Unit Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at its West Des Moines location. At this time, testing is being done by appointment only; no walk-ins will be accepted. Patients with an appointment should remain in their cars for testing while limiting possible exposure to others. To get more information about the criteria for obtaining an appointment, visit the Iowa Clinic COVID-19 page or call 515-875-9268 to schedule your testing appointment. 

Arts and Culture
Nitefall on the River events, which are scheduled to begin May 8, are not currently affected by coronavirus closures, but organizers said they will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates. In the event that a show is canceled, refunds will be available. Updates will be made on the organization’s website.

Education
Iowa Board of Regents President Michael Richards today declared that a state of emergency exists at all institutions under the board’s jurisdictions, which allows the regents to waive certain provisions governing limitations on the use of sick leave and vacation time by the state universities’ personnel. The declaration also authorizes the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University to provide instruction for all academic programs virtually. The board has already taken several steps at the public universities to assist in the effort to help mitigate the spread of the virus and will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional guidance when warranted. “As I issue this state of emergency, the Board recognizes that each of our institutions is unique,” Richards said in a news statement. “The Board is working with each institution to make individual decisions of how to implement any changes that work best for their campus.”