CORONAVIRUS

Gov. Kim Reynolds does not recommend closing Iowa restaurants, businesses due to COVID-19 - yet

Another Iowa case reported, bringing total to 23

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks Monday during a news conference in Johnston about the state's response to COVID-19. (Charlie Ne
Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks Monday during a news conference in Johnston about the state’s response to COVID-19. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press))

JOHNSTON — Gov. Kim Reynolds called Monday on Iowans to temper their St. Patrick’s Day celebrating and practice good hygiene, social distancing and common-sense measures to help contain the spread of a novel coronavirus pandemic that has reached 23 positive cases in the state and is likely to keep growing.

“There’ll be another St. Paddy’s Day next year,” Reynolds told her daily media news briefing, where she said she did not want to have to order bars and restaurants closed like governors in other states have done because people were not heeding calls to avoid large gatherings.

“This isn’t going to end tomorrow and we’re going to see the numbers rise for a while,” the governor said, “but it really will help us bend the curve, it will help us to keep the health care system from completing being overburdened and overtaxed” if Iowans wash their hands, follow health guidelines, stay home if they’re sick and limit social interactions.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. People most at risk of developing severe symptoms that can include death are older adults and those with underlying health issues.

State officials continue to assess how Iowans are avoiding large crowds and abiding by health recommendations, Reynolds said. She said she hopes to keep Iowa businesses open and operating but that could change if conditions warrant.

“At this point we are not” looking an ordering bars, restaurants or other businesses to close temporarily, she said, “but we’re going to continue to assess the situation. Hey, I bet they do takeout, so call an order and pick it up and take it home. So there are other things that we can do to support our business and industry to keep them up and running,” she added.

Reynolds made her comments on a day when the Iowa Department of Public Health was notified of one additional positive case of COVID-19 in an Iowa resident ‑for a total of 23 cases. According to the Health Department, the individual is a resident of Dallas County and tested positive due to community spread. The department offered no other details.

Iowa’s first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Iowa last Monday.

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The governor also noted the health officials have expanded their testing capabilities, But with the testing options expanding, Iowa expects the number of cases to increase, she said.

Reynolds told reporters she hopes to get at least two “drive through” testing sites set up in Iowa, with priority given to first responders, health care workers and Iowans above 65.

Kelly Garcia, director of the state Department of Human Services, said her agency is gearing up to implement telework options for many on the Human Services team.

Also, 500 of the department’s employees have been “deployed” to work-from-home status, starting in Dallas and Polk counties. That number should be up to 2,500 by the end of week, she said.

Garcia also noted Human Services is putting policies in place to ensure access to child care. It will begin paying child care providers who receive child care assistance based on enrollment, not on attendance, to ensure providers have a stable income.

Her agency also is exploring ways to “ramp-up” child care capacity, including expedited licensing, alternative site locations and funding flexibility, Garcia said.

Reynolds said the state is taking steps to expand child care options and ensure low-income students can get school lunches even as schools in the state are closing,

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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