Governor begins to lift restrictions

(Above) Temperatures reaching into the 70s has brought activity to local beaches.  The beaches remain open, however social distancing is strongly recommended.-Reporter photo by Chris Barragy.

Lake businesses proceed with cautious optimism

by Marianne Gasaway

Clear Lake businesses are cautiously putting their proverbial toes in the water following Governor Kim Reynolds’ April 27 announcement that she would ease restrictions effective May 1 for select businesses and churches.  However, many are preparing to jump completely in next week after they have had a chance to better prepare for customers using the guidelines set by the state.

“We were really only given four days notice by the governor that we could re-open — and that’s not enough time to get ready. All of Ge-Jo’s food is handmade and fresh.  It takes longer than that to make an order and prep,” said Ge-Jo’s By The Lake owner Jacki Kelly.  “Once the green light was given to order and prep we started to contact staff who have been waiting for the cue. We will train this week on the computer and menu and get ourselves ready.”  Kelly said there is no firm date for Ge-Jo’s opening and added, “We want to make good decisions.”

Ge-Jo’s small footprint makes new requirements, such as limiting indoor and outdoor seating capacity to 50 percent of normal operating capacity and group sizes to no more than six people.  Seating must be arranged to provide a minimum of six-feet between tables.  There are no more self-serve food or beverage stations and social distancing should be observed between employees and customers. The Iowa Department of Public Health has also recommended that restaurants utilize a reservation only system, screen customers on arrival, screen employees at the start of their shift, have public facing employees wear masks, and spread out workstations wherever possible.

The team at Simply Nourished, now located on Main Avenue, has decided to continue offering only carryout food service despite the governor lifting restrictions.

“Due to the size of our facility, it is impossible to implement the physical distancing required, and our top priority is keeping our customers and staff healthy,” said owner Ashley Coleman.  “We are open regular hours for grocery shopping and grab-n-go deli offerings.  We are also continuing to offer curbside pick up.”

Coleman’s husband, Shea, was able to re-open his Lake Fit and Better Body Movement businesses as a result of the governor’s May 1 proclamation.

“Although we are re-opening, things will be a little different in our facility than they were pre-Covid 19 shutdown,” Coleman announced on his Lake Fit social media.  “Let’s all do our part to keep our community healthy by abiding by physical distancing requirements and absolutely avoiding the gym if sick or exposed to someone who has been sick.”  Lake Fit plans to continue its online offerings through May 15 when Coleman will reassess if onsite group training can resume.

Larger businesses, such as The Other Place on Highway 18, is planning on opening Monday, May 11.  The business has been busy getting its deck and west building ready to offer more seating availability while staying within the 50 percent capacity rule.

Outside of lifting some of the business restrictions, Governor Reynolds has lifted the ban on religious gatherings across the state. While most social gatherings are still limited to 10 or fewer people, religious services, including weddings and funerals, will no longer be subject to that cap. However, this does not apply to visitations or wedding receptions.

Of 12 local churches responding to an inquiry from the Mirror-Reporter, three held services in their church buildings Sunday.  Another will welcome parishioners this Sunday.  Leaders of other churches say they will continue to live-stream their services while continuing to evaluate the situation on a weekly basis.  (See page 6A for a complete listing of church openings).

Farmers markets, retail stores and libraries have also been allowed to resume limited operations in 77 of the counties where COVID-19 spread has been limited or stable, which includes Cerro Gordo County.

Farmers markets are under similar restrictions, mandating six feet between vendors and discouraging groups from lingering. It is also recommended that vendors consider cashless options if possible to avoid exchanging paper current-

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For general retail stores, the state is recommending that stores follow CDC cleaning guidelines and offer hand sanitizer for both employees and public use. Social distancing marks to guide people into staying apart from each other are also recommended.

While Governor Reynolds has continually advised Iowans to be responsible for their own wellbeing in regards to social distancing, the re-opening of businesses will leave laid-off workers with few options. Employees that do not feel it is safe to return to work, either for their own health or because they live with somebody at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, will be left to work out the matter with their employer.

“We’ve asked employers to take a look, if you have a vulnerable person in your household, to make all reasonable opportunities for the employee to be isolated from the rest of the workforce,” said Reynolds.

Those that do not return to work when called back will lose their unemployment benefits outside of certain exceptions. Those that have tested positive for COVID-19, share a household with somebody that has tested positive for COVID-19, or have been recommended by a doctor that they quarantine, can continue to receive benefits. Parents unable to find childcare due to COVID-19 can also continue to receive benefits at this time.

While the governor is eager to start lifting additional restrictions on businesses in the state, the reverse is still an option as the virus continues to spread unchecked. Counties that see an increase in activity may see restrictions re-asserted instead.

“If we do see an up-tick and see those numbers start to spike, then we might have to take a look at dialing back,” said Reynolds.

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