CORONAVIRUS

Gov. Reynolds extends Iowa's coronavirus emergency order, but bottle bill is back

Grocery stores must start Sunday accepting empty bottles, cans

Manager Joab Upah measures the distance between tables May 13 at Cedar River Landing in Cedar Rapids. Restaurants are re
Manager Joab Upah measures the distance between tables May 13 at Cedar River Landing in Cedar Rapids. Restaurants are required to keep patrons at least 6 feet apart, (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — With coronavirus cases reaching alarming rates in some parts of Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday extended requirements for social distancing and increased hygiene at bars, restaurants and other businesses but rejected calls to make her health order stronger.

The proclamation, issued a day before her previous order was to expire, extends requirements that bars and restaurants enforce social distancing of 6 feet between groups of patrons or individuals and that the patrons have seats at a table or bar area.

In addition, the governor’s order extends existing rules for fitness centers, casinos, senior citizen centers and other businesses.

It was a surge of cases among young adults — particularly in urban college cities — that distressed local leaders and merchants. Last month, several bars in downtown Iowa City that attract college-age patrons voluntarily closed temporarily.

Reynolds, too, brought up the concerns in a July 15 news conference, mentioning bars as one business being watched.

“We know where the positive cases are occurring and why and we’re carefully considering whether additional targeted mitigation efforts are necessary to slow the spread in some areas,” she said then.

The extension issued Friday, though, does not ratchet up the limits.

Unless Reynolds modifies it before then, the proclamation expires at the end of Aug. 23 — the day before the first day of fall classes at the University of Iowa and about a week after classes start Aug, 17 at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

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Reynolds earlier this week encouraged residents to wear face masks in public but has declined to issue requirements that people do.

She and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office also has said local officials don’t have the authority to institute mask orders themselves, though the mayors of Iowa City and Muscatine have issued mandatory orders anyway.

“If we comply with this order, Iowa City will see the difference,” Mayor Bruce Teague said in announcing the order. “We’re all in this together and that means we can all play our part.”

One thing that won’t continue under Reynolds’ new order, though, is a temporary exemption that allowed grocery stores to refuse taking back bottles and cans for refunds of the nickel deposit. Starting Sunday, Iowa’s “bottle bill” goes back into full effect.

Reynolds’ actions Friday came as Iowa’s online virus tracker showed over 41,000 positive cases and a total of 820 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in the last four months.

The Associated Press contributed.

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