CORONAVIRUS

Iowa Board of Medicine urges governor to require shelter in place

Only 5 states, including Iowa, don't have similar orders

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a Thursday news conference in Johnston about the status of COVID-19 infections in Iowa.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a Thursday news conference in Johnston about the status of COVID-19 infections in Iowa. The Iowa Board of Medicine on Friday encouraged the governor to issue a shelter-in-place order in Iowa. (Brian Powers, pool/Des Moines Register via AP)

The Iowa Board of Medicine voted Friday to send Gov. Kim Reynolds a letter asking her to issue a shelter-in-place order, adding to the chorus of voices pushing for stronger action in Iowa to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We have been made aware that the public may be confused about what it means to effectively practice social distancing, that Iowans are disregarding your recommendation to stay home and that supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) continue to dwindle,” the letter said. “... Not having a shelter-in-place order in place in Iowa needlessly increases Iowans’ exposure to COVID-19.”

Iowa is one of five states, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Arkansas, that don’t have statewide orders to shelter in place. As of Thursday night, 38 states were under such orders and seven states had at least one city that has mandated people stay at home, USA Today reported.

The Iowa attorney general has determined cities and counties can’t issue their own orders.

Reynolds has argued she “can’t lock the state down” because she wants to keep open the supply chain and make critical services available to Iowans. But there have been criticisms about businesses still open, including gun shops, craft stores and car dealerships.

Many Iowans already are doing what some states consider “shelter in place” by only going out for essential trips, such as to the grocery store or work, and not gathering with people not in their immediate family.

Several cities and counties have asked for Reynolds to further restrict Iowans’ outings. Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart asked for a shelter-in-place order March 24 and the Johnson County Board of Supervisors sent Reynolds a letter Monday.

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The Iowa Board of Medicine, an eight-person board including six physicians, licenses doctors and regulates the practice of medicine in Iowa.

In the letter, the board points to projections from the Institute for Health Metrics & Evaluation that 1,488 Iowans will die from COVID-19 by early August and there will be a shortage of hospital beds in Iowa.

“Knowing that we still have time to lower the number of new infections before we reach that peak, the time to take said swift and aggressive action is now,” the letter states. “Entering a shelter-in-place order as soon as possible will strengthen and enhance the current restrictions you have already put in place to further slow the rate of transmission, it will enhance the effectiveness of the social distancing approach to reduce the strain and burden of the health care system, and, most importantly, it will prevent deaths.”

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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