JOHNSTON — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday there’s no need to impose stringent shelter-in-place restrictions as long as Iowans continue to abide by voluntary measures intended to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic that has claimed one Iowan’s life and hospitalized at least 23 others.
The Iowa governor said she did not want to interrupt the supply chain for Iowa businesses and put additional stress on workers in essential areas beyond the emergency steps she has already taken by issuing an order like Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz did in his state Wednesday and Illinois did last week that directs residents to stay at home and limit movement outside of their homes beyond essential needs.
“Every day we are assessing our mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the virus and determining whether or not it’s time to turn the dial up or turn the dial down,” Reynolds told an afternoon news conference at the state’s emergency operations center.
“We’re seeing some states issue shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders causing Iowans to ask why not Iowa?” she noted. “In fact, many of the steps that we have already taken are equivalent to the stay at home orders that we are seeing in several of these states — like closing schools and some businesses, implementing work from home and distance learning and reducing gatherings to 10 people.
“The significant steps that we have taken will help mitigate the spread of the virus, protect the most vulnerable Iowans and reduce our risk of overwhelming our health care system. It’s important also that we keep Iowa open for business in a responsible way that protects the health of our people and our economy.”
The governor said current measures — to have Iowans work and stay in their homes as much as possible; to seek medical help if necessary but treat minor illnesses themselves; and to practice social distancing — have succeeded at a time when other states are enlisting tougher controls.
Reynolds praised Iowa’s front-line, health care employees for their steadfast work but noted hospital supply challenges.
Only 280 ventilators are available and not in use but more are being ordered.
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Also, the State Hygienic Laboratory, in Coralville, has 1,270 kits available for COVID-19 testing.
And the Iowa National Guard has been enlisted to run nearly 50 missions in the last two days to deliver personal protective equipment supplies statewide to locations with prioritized critical needs.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening declared that a major disaster exists in Iowa and ordered federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the coronavirus pandemic that began on Jan. 20. The president’s action also extends to local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective work.
UPDATE ON CASES
During her news conference, Reynolds said the Iowa Department of Public Health has confirmed 21 additional positive cases of Iowans with COVID-19, bringing the statewide total of 145 positive cases in 31 counties since the viral outbreak began earlier this month.
Twenty-three Iowans were hospitalized for coronavirus symptoms Wednesday, officials added.
Some 2,578 people tested negative for the virus, a total that includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs.
One death was reported — a Dubuque County resident between the ages of 61 and 80, who died Tuesday. No additional information about the individual will be provided.
In fielding questions from reporters, Reynolds conceded that her legislative priority — the Invest in Iowa Act — is “kind of on hold right now” with the 2020 legislative session suspended at least into April.
Her focus, “day in and day out,” is now on mitigating the spread of COVID-19, she said.
Reynolds also told reporters she’s not ready to recommend Iowa’s K-12 school closures of up to four weeks be extended.
But she said a state task force is constantly reassessing and evaluating whether and what additional steps might need to be taken.
Currently, schools are not required to make up any missed days through April 10 under legislation the governor signed last week.
The discussions with educators and administrators are “fluid,” in examining online learning options that must take into account equity and access issues.
According to state health officials, the locations and age ranges of the 21 individuals added to Wednesday’s list of positive cases are:
• Allamakee County, one middle-aged adults (41-60 years)
• Benton County, two middle-aged adults (41-60 years)
• Hancock County, one middle-aged adults (41-60 years)
Johnson County, four adults (18-40 years), one middle-aged adult (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80 years)
• Linn County, one middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
• Muscatine County, one adult (18-40 years)
• Polk County, three older adults (61-80 years)
• Poweshiek County, two older adults (61-80 years)
• Scott County, two middle-aged adults (41-60 years)
• Washington County, two adults (18-40 years)
A status report of monitoring and testing of COVID-19 in Iowa is provided by the Department of Public Health on its website.
In addition, a public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1- (800) 244-7431.
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The state of Iowa has started sharing the number of negative tests conducted at outside labs and is providing additional information on the conditions of those infected with COVID-19.
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