Des Moines Register. March 21, 2020

Seniors need us more than ever: Older Iowans face unprecedented isolation.

There is no evidence yet that being older puts one at higher risk of contracting coronavirus. What we do know, though: People over age 60 who contract it are more likely to have severe, life-threatening problems.

The mortality rate from COVID-19 increases with age, and those with underlying health conditions are especially vulnerable. Many older people have more than one health condition. Nearly one in five Iowans is over the age of 65.

This is why nursing homes, assisted living centers and senior housing complexes have instituted no-visitor policies and are taking special sanitizing precautions. Some are telling residents not to congregate in community areas or halls.

This is obviously the right thing to do.

Yet it will contribute to isolation, which was a problem before this pandemic and brings health risks of its own.

About 28% of older adults in the United States live alone, according to federal data. Loneliness can make people more vulnerable to cognitive decline, depression and heart disease. Isolation takes a toll on physical health.

Now libraries are closed. So are restaurants where retirees gathered for coffee. Instead of group lunches in senior living facilities, meals are being delivered to rooms. Some older people are not connected to others on social media the way younger people are.

So it’s more important than ever to take care of our seniors.

Of course one of the many priorities of the currently overwhelmed local and state governments must be helping seniors who may need expanded access to meal delivery and caregivers. Churches and neighborhoods are stepping up to offer grocery runs, assistance with transportation and other support.

ll of us can do more to help our older family, friends and neighbors. Call them on the telephone. Send emails. In addition to dropping off groceries to a main desk or balcony, include photos and letters.

Don’t assume neighbors have people helping them. If there is an elderly couple living nearby, leave a note on their porch with your name, phone number and address. Let them know they can contact you if they need anything at all.

As the weather warms, seniors themselves should consider plans to meet outside at a picnic table or park, keeping some distance between each other and away from other people.

This country is not facing a short-term crisis. Social distancing could go on for months while scientists work to find treatments and a vaccine.

In the meantime, life will continue to throw at us the difficulties it always has. People will have heart attacks or will need emergency dental care. Furnaces will break down. Storms will hit. Dogs will get sick.

The upcoming months are not going to be easy. Many plans must be made to move forward. Those plans include protecting both the physical and mental health of our most vulnerable residents.

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Waterloo=Cedar Falls Courier. March 22, 2020.

We’re all in this together amid coronavirus threat.

Gov. Kim Reynolds did the right thing Tuesday issuing an emergency proclamation closing numerous gathering places from dine-in restaurants to recreation facilities because of the coronavirus.

The directive in effect through March 31 undoubtedly will be extended. The Centers for Disease Control recommended “social distancing” for at least eight weeks.

Iowa had 38 cases by midweek, including an 81-year-old Black Hawk County resident.

“These are unprecedented times, and the state of Iowa will do whatever is necessary to address this public health disaster,” Reynolds stated.

This plague is unprecedented in our time, but the 1918 Spanish flu shows the need for social distancing.

The federal government was promoting Liberty Loan bonds at parades to cover World War I expenses. Two were scheduled that September in Philadelphia and St. Louis.

Philadelphia had no cases of civilians contracting the flu, but soldiers and sailors at nearby military installations were dying from it. Instead of canceling the Sept. 28 event, 200,000 watched the floats and John Philip Souza conducted marching bands.

More than 2,600 died within a week when city officials finally announced a lockdown. The eventual toll was 12,000.

In St. Louis, which previously canceled the parade, 700 died.

The U.S. was late to this game, but is now ramping up. President Donald Trump falsely compared COVID-19 to the flu and claimed it was “totally under control.” His acolytes at Fox News called it a “Democratic hoax.”

The CDC, though, stated COVID-19 was unlike the flu because it was so contagious.

Its worst-case scenario was 160 million and 210 million contracting COVID-19 within a year and deaths ranging from 200,000 to 1.7 million. The 21 million possibly needing hospitalization would overwhelm the nation’s 925,000 hospital beds.

Trump and Fox News changed their tunes last week after commentator Tucker Carlson personally implored the president to do something. He complained on air, “None of our leaders helped us to take it seriously. … People you trust, people you probably voted for, have spent weeks minimizing what is clearly a very serious problem. … That’s their position. … But they’re wrong.”

Valuable time was lost, compounded by the CDC botching initial tests.

South Korea took immediate action on testing and lowered the incidence of COVID-19. It tested 5,200 people per million, compared to 74 per million in the U.S. by this week.

Italy didn’t take it seriously and had 3,405 by Thursday, now surpassing China’s death toll of 3,245. Lombardy regional newspapers had printed two-to-three pages of obituaries daily, but were now running 13. Because protective gear was lacking, 12% of health professionals contracted the disease, imperiling efforts.

Testing finally ramped up with universities and public health agencies involved. But Trump’s promise that everyone needing a test would get one was hampered by a shortage of testing compounds mainly available from France and Italy.

As the Courier reported, area residents with symptoms resembling COVID-19 were denied tests due to narrow criteria. Iowa also had limited tests available.

By Thursday, the U.S. exceeded 7,000 cases with 121 deaths, including three in a New Jersey family.

With one in five Americans losing their jobs, the economic toll was devastating.

Proving that it can be bipartisan during a crisis, Congress approved legislation to expand Medicaid, unemployment benefits and free COVID-19 testing. Its compromise mandating paid sick leave and child care benefits covered those quarantined with COVID-19 and their caregivers, but exempted businesses with more than 500 or fewer than 50 employees, hospitals, nursing homes and the self-employed.

Rep. Steven King, R-Iowa, opposed it.

Congress also was debating a White House package surpassing $1 trillion package to assist beleaguered industries.

Democrats took issue with a $50 billion package for the four major airlines, each with profits exceeding $1 billion and money generated by the Trump tax cut used to buy shares from stockholders rather than improve employee pay or build reserves. Democrats wanted relief aid to primarily benefit workers, as it should.

Sen. Mitt Romney proposed a $1,000 check to Americans. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., raised it to $2,000, which the White House adopted.

Trump proactively enlisted U.S. Navy hospital ships and released military hospital supplies. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposed using the Defense Production Act to have private companies produce more ventilators and masks, while hospitals needed costs defrayed to actually buy them for a specific event.

Residents can do their part by donating to agencies such as the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and Salvation Army, suddenly facing a more pronounced mission.

As the Courier reported, restaurants closed for dining were imploring residents to take out. Help them out. Their survival may depend on it.

We also like a recommendation that anyone delaying an intended purchase should buy a gift certificate now to assist beleaguered merchants immediately.

We’re all in this together.

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Fort Dodge Messenger. March 21, 2020.

Grassley’s leadership is now crucial

Iowa’s senior United States senator has a key role to play.

As our nation mobilizes its resources to minimize the harm caused by the coronavirus pandemic, our state and the nation is fortunate to have U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley in a key leadership role in Congress. The Iowa Republican chairs the Senate Finance Committee. Many of the most significant issues that must be addressed fall within the purview of that committee.

This is a time that calls for pragmatism and commonsense as well as a commitment to crafting solutions with broad bipartisan support. Grassley has a well-deserved reputation a one who works collaboratively with senators of both parties when that is necessary to further the interests of the nation. Now is one of those times. It is reassuring that Grassley is powerfully positioned to make sure that partisan squabbles don’t delay needed congressional action.

Grassley also will make sure that as national approaches are enacted, the needs of rural America are not overlooked. Already he has called his colleagues’ attention to the importance of understanding the health care situation in Iowa and other predominantly rural states.

“It’s important to me that rural hospitals, which are already facing staff and resource shortages, receive the help they need. Rural America can’t be left behind, even as we combat the virus in more densely populated hot spots,” Grassley said in a statement just released by his office. “We’re continuing to develop solutions that will help working Americans, their families and the most vulnerable, as well as businesses of every size and American industries most disrupted.”

The Iowa senator looks out for Iowa, but his perspective is truly national. For example, he quickly weighed in on how the current crisis affects industries with little direct bearing on the situation in his home state.

“I’m especially concerned that June 1 presents unique challenges for the auto industry when it’s already facing significant supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19,” Grassley said this week. “As we learned in 2009, the health of the auto industry is critical to the health of our economy.”

The senator’s vast experience will help his colleagues develop legislative approaches that don’t overlook the problems this health care crisis poses nationwide. That’s good news not just for Iowans but for all Americans.

In an op-ed just released by Grassley he makes an important recommendation:

“Be governed by grit, sacrifice and fortitude to thrive and protect hearth and home. … Consider this a test of social responsibility and civic duty. Let’s pass with flying colors, especially for the sake of loved ones, neighbors and co-workers who are at greater risk of serious complications and for those on the front lines who deliver life-saving health care.”

The Messenger strongly agrees. We all must heed Grassley’s advice. This is a time for each of us to do our part.

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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