Thanks to enough people following guidelines on social distancing and avoiding large gatherings, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday the state is able to shift its COVID-19 focus from mitigation strategies to managing the impact on Iowans.
Even as the state Department of Public Health reported 655 new cases and 12 more deaths, Reynolds said Iowa is successfully dealing with the disease, which has claimed 231 lives in less than two months.
As she continues to allow more businesses to partially reopen, Reynolds said credit goes to Iowans for responding to targeted mitigation efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent health care systems from being overwhelmed.
“I’m proud to say that Iowans do what they always do and they responded,” she said during her daily news conference Thursday. “So since we’ve kind of really accomplished what we were trying to do ... now we have shifted our focus from mitigation and resources to managing and containing virus activity as we begin to open Iowa back up.”
That means that beginning Friday, dentists may resume providing services and campgrounds, drive-in movie theaters, tanning facilities and medical spas all may reopen statewide, but with restrictions.
Her latest proclamation also relaxes mitigation strategies in the 22 counties that remain under more strict orders because the virus is more widespread there.
In those 22 counties, beginning Friday, malls and retail stores may reopen provided they operate at no more than 50 percent of capacity and take other steps, and fitness centers may reopen for appointments only.
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In a statement, Coralville’s Coral Ridge Mall said it would reopen under those conditions starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. Shoppers there should expect to see hand-sanitizing stations, frequent cleanings and social distancing directions among other precautions.
“As Coral Ridge Mall prepares for this ‘new normal,’ we are thankful for the opportunity to reopen our doors and look forward to welcoming guests back into the shopping center,” senior general manager Monica Nadeau said in a statement.
Representatives of another large mall in the Corridor — Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids — did not return calls Thursday for comment on its plans.
The governor’s new guidelines are in effect until May 15 unless she changes them. Data about COVID-19 will continue to drive her decisions about reopening the state economy “in a responsible manner,” Reynolds said.
“Just as we can’t stop the virus completely, we also can’t keep businesses closed and our life restricted indefinitely,” she said.
According to the state’s newest version of its COVID-19 dashboard, at coronavirus.iowa.gov, 31 people were admitted to hospitals in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total to 417 with 107 on ventilators and 151 in intensive care.
There have been 66,427 people tested, with 16.6 percent of them testing positive for a total of 11,059. Another 4,266 people are recovering.
Although the number of Iowans dying and becoming infected with COVID-19 continues to increase, Reynolds, who met Wednesday with President Donald Trump and his coronavirus advisers, said she is proud of the state’s efforts.
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“We are leading, and we’re leading by example. And we’re going to continue to lead,” she said. “We are in a pandemic. We have a rapidly changing environment. We are reacting and being proactive.”
That includes testing at hot spots, such as meatpacking plants, “so of course, our positive cases are going to increase,” she said.
Iowa’s COVID-19 response may not be perfect, Reynolds said, “but I think we’re doing everything we can to really take care of Iowans in a responsible way (and) also to get the economy up and going so Iowans can get back to work and we can do everything we can to get our life somewhat back to normal.”
Just as it will be up to business owners, churches and others to decide whether they are comfortable partly reopening, Reynolds said it will be up to Iowans to decide whether they want to venture out.
“Iowan to need to make those individual choices themselves,” Reynolds said. “They need to apply personal responsibility, take into account where they’re going, what they’re doing.”
Reynolds also said Trump asked Iowa Director of Public Health Caitlin Pedati to be a member of his coronavirus task force after Pedati briefed the president on Iowa’s efforts to mitigate COVID-19. However, later Thursday, White House officials told Bloomberg News Pedati is not “officially” a member of the task force, but may be consulted. The governor’s office declined to comment.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has announced $78 million for Iowa in reimbursement for costs associated with COVID-19. The funds will cover 75 percent of the eligible cost of personal protective gear and medical supplies and equipment during May and June.
In addition, FEMA has obligated $44 million for similar costs in March and April; $17 million to cover deployment of the National Guard; $4 million to reimburse the state for costs associated with its response; and $4.2 million for the use of up to 20 beds at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.
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