Throughout the state, Iowa State University Extension county offices are beginning to reopen to the public. Some offices already are fully open to the public, some are open by appointment only, and others are preparing to reopen. Iowans should contact their county office for information about local reopening plans.
“As county Extension councils and local staff plan for reopening their offices to the public, they first and foremost are making plans to protect staff, volunteers, participants and communities. The health and safety of Iowans is our greatest concern,” says John Lawrence, vice president for Extension.
To help county offices plan for reopening to the public, ISU Extension has been reviewing and adapting guidance from Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa State University, Iowa Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health and safety first
“Using this guidance, each county Extension office is determining how to best meet local needs and circumstances while planning for social-physical distancing, how many people can gather, personal health monitoring and other infection control strategies,” Lawrence says.
Although county and campus offices have been closed to the public over the past few months due to COVID-19 precautions, ISU Extension has remained open for business. Extension specialists and county staff have been conducting group education and activities virtually when possible, using video or teleconferencing. One-on-one meetings have been conducted by phone, by video conference, or if meeting in-person has been essential, with appropriate distancing and precautions.
Options available for information
ISU Extension continues to develop and engage in alternate ways of bringing research-based information and education to all Iowans. For example:
• ISU Extension throughout the state continues to be available by phone, text, email and website to answer questions and provide information and education. Check your county Extension office webpage for local news and contact information.
• ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development has created a wide variety of youth-led learning resources that are available for at-home learning. These resources are being continually updated and available to the public.
• Resources are available to help families and communities dealing with the disruptions of COVID-19 cope with concerns about stress and relationships, personal finance, and nutrition and wellness.
• Many Extension specialists are hosting virtual field days, providing webinars or supplementing their regular webinar series. For example, additional webinars from Iowa Learning Farms offer timely education on issues related to water, soil, livestock, wildlife and other topics.
• Some Extension programs are offering educational podcasts, which can be accessed from the ISU Extension and Outreach Social Media Directory.
• ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development is providing resources to assist communities, businesses, local governments and nonprofits.
• ISU Extension and Outreach’s family finance program specialists are providing one-on-one financial conversations with Iowans. These financial educators are available to talk about options for revising a budget, prioritizing bills, paying down debt and connecting Iowans with community resources to stretch reduced incomes.
• The Iowa Concern hotline is available 24/7 for free, confidential support from trained staff. Email and live chat are also available.
• AnswerLine is available for consumers with home and family questions.
• Continue to check the ISU Extension and Outreach website for news about upcoming opportunities and educational offerings from Extension specialists.
• ISU Extension and Outreach also has been compiling research-based resources related to facing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit the COVID-19 webpage often for updates.
“For over 100 years, ISU Extension and Outreach has been serving Iowans,” Lawrence says. “As our state recovers from COVID-19, we’ll continue to deliver research-based information and education to help Iowans care for their families, manage stress and support their communities, businesses and farms. We’re here for Iowans now — and for the next 100 years.”