MONDAY, MARCH 16, 2020

OTTUMWA – State Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks said this morning that the decision of legislative leaders to suspend the state’s legislative session for 30 days is a “wise and necessary result” of recently confirmed community spread (meaning no known source of contact) of the coronavirus and will also alter her schedule as she campaigns for the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District.

“The Statehouse’s close working quarters combined with people from every county of every age groups and varying health status that transit the Capitol each day of the session make it an all-too-effective transfer point for the disease. As a former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, I appreciate that legislative leaders from both parties have taken the prudent course of suspending the session to reduce the exposure of the public, staff and lawmakers to COVID-19” she said.

Miller-Meeks also said she will suspend her planned 24-county tour of the congressional district and scheduled fundraisers for the next 30 days to reduce group gatherings where social distancing of six feet or greater would be challenging. She also encouraged Iowans to pull together and help each other, especially health-care professionals and other first responders, during the weeks ahead.

She said on Jan. 30 as the coronavirus began to spread in the United States that “there’s no reason to assume that it cannot or will not reach Iowa at some point.”

Miller-Meeks said, “I will repeat today what I said on Jan. 30: ‘We need to take the kind of action that we normally take during cold and flu season, only with greater diligence. Follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines as personal efforts are necessary: cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or do so into your elbow, frequent hand-washing with soap and water, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

“If you are over 65 and or have pre-existing health conditions like lung disease, diabetes or immune-suppressed serious consideration should be given to remaining homebound. Healthy individuals between age 50-65 are also at risk and should limit public interactions. If you’re sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities, and call your provider, urgent care clinic or ER before going in person. Medical personnel will advise you if you need to be evaluated in person. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects, such as door knobs and cell phones, that may be contaminated with germs.”

She added, “Employers should encourage employees to work from home whenever possible. It’s also in times like these that neighbors help neighbors and step up for their communities. With so many schools not holding classes in the weeks ahead, parents who must go to work, including health-care professionals and first responders, will need help with child care. And, of course, older Iowans and people with disabilities may require an extra helping hand. I encourage people, especially younger people, to do their part by volunteering to babysit in those situations, cook a meal or two, run errands or find other ways to be helpful.”

Miller-Meeks also said legislators should consider permitting unemployment compensation for those whose work may be temporarily halted and they lose their paycheck or it is reduced; a temporary increase in SNAP benefits and insurance reimbursement (increased visits and compensation where currently authorized) for telehealth would help to reduce overburdening our health care system and permit those with mental health issues to have access to providers during a time of heightened anxiety.

“In concert with actions on the federal level, we must help all Iowans weather this crises and protect their health and support our economy,” she said. “One appropriate step would be a proactive move to increase available medical personnel by waiving licensure requirements to allow retired doctors, nurses and physician’s assistants to provide care should the healthcare system become overstressed.”

Miller-Meeks, an ophthalmologist and former president of the Iowa Medical Society, enlisted at age 18 and served as an Army nurse before graduating medical school. She retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. In 2010, then-Gov. Terry Branstad appointed Miller-Meeks as the director of the Iowa Department of Public Health where she served in that role for three years. She was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2018.

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