CORONAVIRUS

Iowa could reach coronavirus peak in 2-3 weeks

But health official cautions that prediction could change

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to the press during a news conference Sunday about the coronavirus and the state's response fro
Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to the press during a news conference Sunday about the coronavirus and the state’s response from the State Emergency Operation Center in Johnston. Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, is in the background. (Kelsey Kremer/Des Moines Register)

JOHNSTON — The spread of novel coronavirus is on a trajectory to peak in Iowa during the next two to three weeks, a state public health official said Sunday.

However, Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, cautioned that projection could change in the coming days and weeks.

“We’re thinking that we might see a first peak (of the virus) in the next two to three weeks,” Reisetter said during Gov. Kim Reynolds’ latest briefing on the state’s response to the coronavirus. The briefing was held Sunday at the State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Dodge.

“That’s the best information that we have right now,” Reisetter added. “I would reiterate that things are changing on a daily basis, and we continue to look at numbers, both here in Iowa and what’s happening in other states. So that certainly could change. But that would be our best estimate right now.”

Thirty-eight new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed Sunday, bringing Iowa’s total to 336 cases since the virus first appeared here earlier this month, according to state public health data.

A Linn County man became the state’s fourth person to die as a result of the virus, officials said. The man was between the age of 61 and 80 and suffered other health issues as well.

Fifty-one infected individuals remain hospitalized, while 17 have been discharged and are recovering, according to state data.

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State officials continued to urge Iowans to be cautious in helping to limit the virus’ spread. Reynolds urged Iowans to stay home as much as possible, limit public trips to essential purposes and contact a physician when they experience symptoms of the virus, including a fever and difficulty breathing.

“It should be everyone’s assumption that the virus is currently circulating in their community,” Reisetter said. “Those mitigation strategies are so very important, regardless of where you live.”

Order suspends surgical abortions

During Sunday’s briefing, Reynolds also defended her office’s assertion that surgical abortions are non-essential medical procedures, and thus temporarily banned under her order that such procedures be suspended.

Reynolds said her order to suspend non-essential medical procedures is part of an effort to preserve health care equipment that is needed for health care workers to care for patients infected with the coronavirus. States with high numbers of the virus are dealing with shortages of that equipment.

When it was suggested that some individuals may not consider an abortion an “elective” or “non-essential” procedure, Reynolds said those individuals should take their concerns or complaints to the state medicine board.

She said other questions about what is essential or non-essential have arisen, such as about the removal of a kidney stone.

“We kept the (proclamation’s) language broad,” Reynolds said. “With every one of the directives that we’ve made, or every one of the orders that we’ve put in place, there are questions. So I guess if they have questions, the Board of Medicine would be the enforcement or the oversight for this. So as people have questions, that’s where they can go and then they can maybe get the answers that they’re looking for.”

The largest abortion provider in the state, Planned Parenthood, told the Associated Press it had not learned of the ban from the governor’s office but rather after a conservative radio host went on the air with it.

“We are assessing the executive order in light of the governor’s comments today,” Planned Parenthood North Central States said in a statement to the AP.

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Reynolds said Sunday her decision to suspend non-essential medical procedures, and include surgical abortions in that order, was based on data and the recommendations of health care experts, not her personal ideology. Reynolds and other Statehouse Republicans have supported myriad legislative proposals to restrict abortions and come close to banning them.

Reynolds compared the non-essential medical procedure decision to other orders she has given, including those to close restaurants and bars other than drive-through and carryout service, to close schools, and to suspend church services.

“Everyone is making sacrifices,” she said.

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.