CORONAVIRUS

Governor partially activates Emergency Operations Center as coronavirus precaution

Move to prepare for potential cases of novel coronavirus in state

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, Tuesd
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney)

Gov. Kim Reynolds has ordered a “partial” activation of the State Emergency Operations Center to prepare for potential cases of the novel coronavirus in Iowa.

Though no cases of COVID-19 — the respiratory virus infecting thousands across the globe — have been detected in Iowa, Reynolds announced Saturday she has activated the Johnston-based center to ensure state agencies are prepared.

“While no positive tests of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Iowa at this time, we are proactively coordinating plans across state agencies to protect the health of Iowans and assess our operational needs so we are as prepared as possible,” Reynolds said in a news release. “We will continue to work with President Donald Trump and his Coronavirus Task Force to make sure Iowa has the resources, information, and expertise to keep our communities safe.”

The State Emergency Operations Center leads, coordinates and supports homeland security and emergency management functions in Iowa, according to its website. The governor’s office stated the center provides a mechanism for face-to-face coordination and information sharing between state agencies and other partners.

Starting Monday, coordination briefings will be held twice a week with agencies on the latest developments of COVID-19 and “to ensure necessary preparedness measures are in place.”

“Should the situation change, the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is prepared to transition the State Emergency Operations Center to an increased level of activation,” according to the governor’s news release.

Nearly 106,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed worldwide as of Saturday, including more than 400 cases in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. The virus has been associated with more than 3,500 deaths across the globe.

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Fifteen Iowans tested negative for COVID-19 in recent weeks, according to state public health officials on Friday. The results of testing done on two more Iowans still is pending, but should be known by Monday.

An additional 11 Iowans who don’t have symptoms but recently traveled to an affected country are being monitored by the state public health agency for signs of the virus.

The Iowa Department of Public Health last week also asked that any person returning to the state from China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea to voluntarily self-isolate themselves for 14 days. These people are asked to stay at home and avoid going to work, school or any large public gathering where the respiratory virus could spread.

The head of Iowa’s universities, the state Board of Regents, canceled all university-sponsored international travel, including spring break trips, on Thursday in response to the increasing COVID-19 cases.

State public health officials continue to emphasize the risk for Iowa is low and encourage residents to take everyday public health precautions to stay healthy, which includes washing hands frequently and staying home when sick.

Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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