JOHNSTON — State public health officials issued a new order Friday due to a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is designed to help hospitals, clinics and other health-care providers to stretch their supplies by using and reusing masks, gowns and other items beyond the normal period.
Sarah Reisetter, IDPH deputy director, said the PPE shortage order would allow health-care providers, hospitals, health-care facilities, clinics, local public health agencies, and other medical and response organizations that treat patients to use or reuse equipment beyond its “shelf life,” provide that health workers not have to change PPE between patient visits, prioritize face masks for essential activities that may involve direct infectious contact, discharge COVID-19 patients once they’re stable, and consider alternative approaches medical-grade PPE such as using homemade masks in combination with face shields.
The directive from Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the state’s medical director and epidemiologist, also provides new legal immunity for hospitals and other facilities in Iowa’s health care system that make “a good faith effort” to get face masks and other protective equipment.
“We understand the issuance of this order may be unsettling but due to the global shortage of PPE supply, we’ve determined that now is the time to take this action,” Reisetter told a news conference at the state’s emergency operations center.
“Unfortunately, we’re in a position where — like many states and countries across the globe — we are preparing for a time when we might not have enough of these supplies.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds reassured Iowans that positive cases of coronavirus are flattening and “plateauing” even though Friday’s count included 118 new cases that brought the total to 1,388 and included two more deaths in Linn County. The victims — described as one older adult aged 61-80 years and an elderly adult aged 81 or older — brought the state’s overall COVID-19 death toll to 31 and the number of deaths in Linn County to nine.
The latest figures from the state indicate COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in 81 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Linn County continued to lead the state with 225 positive cases, followed by Johnson County with 185, Polk County with 147, Scott County with 99, Muscatine County with 80 and Washington and Tama counties each with 70.
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“When we started this week I told Iowans that it would be a difficult one and it has been,” the governor said, but she also pointed to “reassuring signs” by noting that 14,565 Iowans have tested negative for the virus — including 862 in Friday’s report — and that 36 percent, or 506 Iowans, have recovered from the coronavirus while 119 Iowans remain hospitalized.
Reynolds said the trend lines indicate “we’re doing the right thing but our work is not yet done.”
IDPH metrics indicated an expected climb in COVID-19 case numbers, Reisetter said, but she added that “onset of symptoms data” had flattened “and that’s really the whole goal of public health mitigation efforts is to see a flattening so that we have a flat plateau of illness and infection. The ideal goal would be to avoid ever really seeing a peak and a spike in cases.” She noted that the projected PPE shortage was not being created by a surge in Iowa’s cases of COVID-19 — the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus — that have overwhelmed health-care systems in other U.S. states.
“Today’s order isn’t a reflection of an increased spike in cases. Today’s order is an acknowledgement that PPE supplies are low globally as well as in the United States, and so the order gives guidance and direction to health-care providers to the extent that they can’t get the PPE that they would normally use to provide the standard of care that they normally provide,” she said. “It’s not a reflection of an anticipated peak or spike or anything like that. It’s a reflection of the fact that supplies are low, additional PPE is hard to find and so it gives health-care providers instructions about what to do if they can’t find the PPE or they can’t acquire the PPE that they need.”
Reynolds praised Iowa businesses, residents and prisoners for “stepping up” to help produce needed PPE for healthcare workers across the state.
“We’ve had an all hands on deck, all of the above approach.” The governor noted.
Also Friday, the governor told reporters that one “unintended consequence” of the restrictive emergency orders that closed restaurants, bars and many other businesses while keeping food stored and other essential functions operating has been the food insecurity created for some 354,000 Iowans.
The situation has strained demand on food banks, pantries and other providers but the governor said the state remains committed to “feeding even more Iowans in these troubling times.” To respond to the challenges, Reynolds said she has created the Feeding Iowans Task Force led by Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg to coordinate resources, identify gaps and raise awareness on hunger-related issues so needy Iowans know where to go to get help – starting by going to the coronavirus.iowa.gov Web site for food information.
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Iowans who have tested positive include 537 people between the ages of 41 and 60; 432 people between 18 and 40; 322 people between 61 and 80; 80 elderly adults aged 81 or older; and 17 children under the age of 18, according to state data.
In all, 714 women and 674 men have tested positive in Iowa.
According to IDPH, the locations and age ranges of the 118 individuals include:
• Allamakee County, one middle-age adult (41-60)
• Black Hawk County, six adults (18-40 years), seven middle-age adults (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80 years)
• Cedar County, one adult (18-40 years)
• Clarke County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Clayton County, one adult (18-40 years)
• Clinton County, two middle-age adults (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80 years)
• Dubuque County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Fayette County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Harrison County, one older adult (61-80 years)
• Henry County, one adult (18-40 years), one older adult (61-80 years)
• Jasper County, one adult (18-40 years)
• Johnson County, one child (0-17 years), five adults (18-40 years), six middle-age adults (41-60 years), two older adults (61-80 years)
• Linn County, three adults (18-40 years), four middle-age adults (41-60 years), two older adults (61-80 years), one elderly adult (81+)
• Louisa County, five adults (18-40 years), six middle-age adults (41-60 years), three older adults (61-80 years)
• Marshall County, two adults (41-60 years)
• Muscatine County, two adults (18-40 years), eight middle-age adults (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80 years)
• Osceola County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Polk County, six adults (18-40 years), one older adult (61-80 years)
• Pottawattamie County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Scott County, three adults (18-40 years), six middle-age adults (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80 years, one elderly adult (81+)
• Tama County, four adults (18-40 years), three middle-age adults (41-60 years)
• Union County, one older adult (61-80 years)
• Wapello County, one adult (18-40 years)
• Warren County, one adult (18-40 years), one middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Washington County, two adults (18-40 years), two middle-age adults (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80 years)
• Winnebago County, one adult (18-40 years)
• Woodbury County, three middle-age adults (41-60 years)
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A status report of monitoring and testing of COVID19 in Iowa is provided by IDPH and can be found at the https://idph.iowa.gov/Emerging-Health-Issues/Novel-Coronavirus?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery Web site. In addition, a public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431. The state of Iowa has started sharing the number of negative tests conducted at outside labs, and is providing additional information on the conditions of those infected with COVID-19.
James Lynch contributed to this story
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