CORONAVIRUS

Reynolds sees 'positive signs' in tough week

State will phase in a reopening, but when?

Gov. Kim Reynolds provides an update Friday on COVID-19 in Iowa during a news conference at the state emergency operatio
Gov. Kim Reynolds provides an update Friday on COVID-19 in Iowa during a news conference at the state emergency operations center in Johnston. (Bryon Houlgrave/Des Moines Register)

JOHNSTON — Gov. Kim Reynolds closed what she called a “really tough week” Friday by urging Iowans to “hang in there” for at least two more weeks, after which she offered some hope that parts of the state could begin to reopen under a phased process at some unspecified date.

Reynolds pointed to decisions she made in the past two days to close schools for the rest of the 2019-20 school year and impose stricter social gathering and distancing measures in northeast Iowa, but offered encouragement by saying “there are a lot of really positive signs out there as well.”

Friday’s daily record of 191 positive COVID-19 results indicated Iowa still has not hit its peak of coronavirus illnesses that have claimed 64 lives and caused troublesome outbreaks in at least nine long-term care facilities and several meat-processing plants.

“We just don’t have the data that I think we need to start to have the conversation about opening things up,” she said in urging Iowans to continue efforts to “flatten” the curve by staying and working at home, especially if sick, except for essential trips for food and medicine; maintaining social distancing; and limiting gatherings.

The governor told reporters during a news briefing at the state’s emergency operations center that a working group is in the process of setting parameters and guidelines for how the state will stabilize, recover and grow the economy using an approach that likely will be phased in based on various health and testing metrics.

Reynolds stopped short of saying whether she would be in a position to lift orders closing many businesses and limiting many activities and functions through April 30. But she said health experts had two weeks to continue testing, build out contact tracing and implement other measures that could give a better picture if there will be opportunities “for us to start to open things up in a responsible and phased-in manner.”

“By increasing the number of Iowans tested either through diagnostic tests to confirm positive COVID-19 cases or through serology testing to determine if a person has had the virus, we can then target specific communities and businesses that are in a position to open back in a way that is measured and responsible. So it really is a critical piece of us talking about how we start to reopen the state of Iowa back up,” she said.

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“I know that the possibility of getting life back to normal sooner rather than later is what hardworking Iowans want and it is absolutely what I want, too,” Reynolds added. “As we continue to learn how to live with COVID-19 until a vaccine is available, we’ll also learn how to carefully balance not only the health of Iowans but the health of our economy.”

The governor said she expected Iowa would build a recovery model based on guidance and recommendations contained in President Donald Trump’s “Open Up America” phased plan that will look at data by counties, by regions and by communities to formulate a staged approach to gauge readiness and mitigate the risks of a resurgence.

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

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