JOHNSTON — As the state’s count of coronavirus deaths reached its highest daily peak yet of 20, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday there is no reason to reconsider her orders allowing more businesses to open.
Testing across the state for the virus has ramped up so much, she said, that now any Iowan who wants to get tested will be able to make an appointment for one.
As Iowa continues Friday to reopen more businesses, workplaces and entertainment venues, “normal will look and feel different,” the governor said Thursday at her daily briefing at the state emergency operations center. “But I believe we’ll all discover that difference can look and feel pretty good.”
As of Thursday morning, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported a daily tally of 20 COVID-19 fatalities — more than any day since the first virus death was reported in late March in the state.
The one-day high and the cumulative death toll of 403 Iowans will not cause the governor to reconsider relaxing restrictions that had curtailed or closed many businesses because she said she has “faith in Iowans and their ability to be personally responsible.”
“Anytime we lose anybody, it’s horrific,” Reynolds said, saying her “phased-in approach” is responsible and safe. She previously relaxed limits on restaurants, malls, stores, hair salons and gyms. Starting Friday, restrictions also are relaxed for movie theaters and museums, and next week they are for bars.
“We will manage this and, hopefully, see those numbers go down,” Reynolds said.
The daily numbers show the 20 deaths included five in Polk County, three in Black Hawk and two each in Woodbury, Tama and Dubuque counties. Dallas, Linn, Louisa, Muscatine, Pottawattamie and Wapello counties each recorded one death in the period. Later in the day, Pottawattamie reported another death also.
In the period, there were 1,119 people tested — 74 positive and 1,041 negative.
To monitor, manage and contain the coronavirus, Reynolds announced the $26 million Test Iowa Initiative will be open to all Iowans. People who want to be tested for free may go online at testiowa.com to take the assessment and schedule an appointment at one of eight drive-through sites.
“This is especially important as more Iowans are returning to work,” Reynolds said.
She acknowledged complaints from some local officials, including Linn County Public Health, about the timeliness and accuracy of Test Iowa results.
Linn County officials were troubled that a total of only 334 people had been tested over the course of four days at a drive-through site in Cedar Rapids — and that 10 percent of those test were found inconclusive.
“Our goal is to certainly get lab results to local public health as quickly as possible because we understand that contact tracing and case investigation is just such an important component to be able to contain the virus,” said Public Health Department Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter.
The department reported there were more tests conducted Wednesday — 4,818 — than on any previous day. Of those, just 420, or 8.7 percent, were positive.
Test Iowa has the capacity to provide 200,000 tests, Reynolds said. The department’s daily goal was for Test Iowa to test 5,000 Iowans and the State Hygienic Lab to test 2,000 more.
So far, more than 476,000 Iowans have completed the online assessment. Overall, more than 115,000 Iowans have been tested.
Despite complaints about testing, Reynolds said the data is helping public health officials identify when and where additional testing is needed and where strike teams should be sent.
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“As we learn new things and as we modernize the system and as we bring on new capacity, everybody’s learning new things,” Reynolds said. “So if there is an issue there, we’re going to find out about that and we’re going to correct it. We’ve significantly reduced the time that it takes to process the test.”
Next week, Reynolds said she plans to announce more opportunities for Iowans to be tested for the virus.
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