CORONAVIRUS

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds expands business closures

Iowans brace for a 'critical' coronavirus week

Line chart of total coronavirus cases in Linn County, Johnson County and Polk County as of April 6, 2020
Line chart of total coronavirus cases in Linn County, Johnson County and Polk County as of April 6, 2020
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JOHNSTON — Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered more businesses closed and hinted at stepped-up enforcement Monday as state officials braced for a tough week that’s likely to bring more deaths and more Iowans testing positive for the coronavirus that already is in 75 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

“We expect this to also be a difficult week in Iowa,” said Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of the state Department of Public Health, after the governor walked through last week’s totals that saw 444 additional positive cases and 16 deaths — bringing the state’s overall total to 946 cases and 25 deaths.

“The last week has been especially hard. We had been anticipating that our numbers of COVID-19 cases would climb and last week we saw that happen,” Reynolds said. “Unfortunately, we expect this week will be equally if not more difficult.”

Health Department officials on Monday added 78 new positive cases and four new counties where the disease has spread. Three deaths announced Monday involved one Linn County adult between 61 and 80 and two 80-plus Tama County residents.

Reynolds told a news conference the metrics she and health experts use to chart the COVID-19 spread and mitigation efforts did not warrant a statewide or regional shelter-at-home order, but she pleaded with Iowans to “stay home,” limit outside trips to food, medication and other essentials by one family member, keep gatherings below 10 people and maintain a 6-foot distance from others when not working or isolating at home.

To encourage further social distancing and mitigation efforts, Reynolds issued a new proclamation ordering additional “targeted, systematic” closures effective at 8 a.m. Tuesday through April 30.

Included are shopping malls; tobacco stores; toy, gaming, music, instrument, movie and adult entertainment stores; social and fraternal clubs, including those at golf courses; bingo halls, bowling alleys, pool halls, arcades and amusement parks; museums, libraries, aquariums and zoos; race tracks and speedways; roller and ice skating rinks and skate parks; outdoor or indoor playgrounds and children’s play centers; and campgrounds. In addition, unsolicited door-to-door sales were prohibited.

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“I believe that most Iowans are being responsible, but I need every Iowan to take responsibility for their health and the health of others. This week is critical. Stay home,” she said.

“Every Iowan has a responsibility to keep our families, friends and communities safe, especially our most vulnerable and our health care workers who are serving on the front lines of this crisis,” Reynolds added. “They don’t have the luxury of staying home. These heroes among us are putting their fears aside and showing up to take care of us and we need to do our part by taking care of them.”

Monday, state officials said the Legislative Council plans to hold a teleconference at 9 p.m. Thursday to take action extending the suspension of legislative session until at least April 30.

Reynolds was joined in her news conference at the state’s emergency operations center by Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Bayens, who said law officers will use a three-step approach to enforce the governor’s directives if Iowans fail to comply. Violators face a simple misdemeanor charge.

“Law enforcement has no desire to cite or arrest anyone. Most Iowans are being responsible and doing their part. It is only a small segment that is throwing caution to the wind and ignoring the limitations on social gathering. That small segment, however, could have an enormous impact on public health,” he said.

Bayens said officers were advised to use “reasoned and measured steps” that start with educating people about their COVID-19 prevention responsibilities and encouraging them to “comply and disperse on their own if needed.”

However, he added, that officers would cite violators if “all other reasonable measures fail.”

Reynolds noted that health officials are monitoring metrics but no area of the state has risen to the level where she feels the need to impose a shelter-at-home order. But that could be subject to change as Iowa moves closer to an expected peak later this month.

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Reynolds tweeted Monday she and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts had a “productive and positive” phone conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top White House adviser who has thrown his support behind a national shelter-at-home declaration — which effectively keeps people at home except for essential activities.

Fauci was “100 percent supportive” of the actions Reynolds has implemented, she said, saying Iowa and Nebraska are “on the same page” with guidance he has provided other states.

Along with business and school closures, Iowa has restricted social gathering to 10 people or fewer; recommended people work from home and stay inside when sick or isolate if exposed to coronavirus; implemented social-distancing measures to keep Iowans at least 6 feet apart; and promoted hand-washing, disinfecting and good hygiene as ways to slow the spread of COVID-19.

While an additional 78 Iowans tested positive Monday for the virus, Health Department officials said another 680 posted negative results — bringing the total of negatives to 10,653.

Linn County shows the state’s highest count of positive cases with 176, followed by Polk County with 125, Johnson County with 118 and Scott and Washington counties with 52 each.

Iowans who have tested positive include 356 people between 41 and 60; 264 people between 18 and 40; 253 people between 61 and 80; 65 elderly adults and eight children, according to state data.

A total of 99 Iowans were hospitalized with coronavirus-related symptoms or illnesses, while 284 have recovered, according to Health Department data.

In all, 503 women and 443 men have tested positive in Iowa.

According to health officials, the locations and age ranges of the 78 new cases are:

• Allamakee County, one adult (18-40 years);

• Benton County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years);

• Cedar County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years);

• Cerro Gordo County, two older adults (61-80 years);

• Chickasaw County, one adult (18-40 years);

• Clinton County, one older adult (61-80 years);

• Crawford County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years);

• Dubuque County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years);

• Franklin County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years);

• Henry County, one adult (18-40 years);

• Jackson County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years);

• Johnson County, five adults (18-40 years), six middle-age adults (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80 years);

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• Linn County, five adults (18-40 years), six middle-age adults (41-60 years), two older adults (61-80 years), one elderly adult (81+);

• Louisa County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years);

• Marion County, one older adult (61-80 years);

• Marshall County, one adult (18-40 years), one older adult (61-80 years);

• Muscatine County, five adults (18-40 years), two middle-age adults (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80 years);

• Page County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years);

• Polk County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years), two older adults (61-80 years);

• Pottawattamie County, one adult (18-40 years);

• Scott County, two adults (18-40 years), seven middle-age adults (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80), one elderly adult (81+);

• Tama County, one adult (18-40 years), one middle-age adult (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80), three elderly adults (81+);

• Wapello County, one adult (18-40 years);

• Warren County, one adult (18-40 years);

• Washington County, one adult (18-40 years), one middle-age adult (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80);

• And Winnebago County, one middle age adult (41-60 years).

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

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