Health

Iowa governor enters 'modified' quarantine

She and state epidemiologist limit interactions

Iowa Department of Public Health Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati speaks as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, right, looks on April 23
Iowa Department of Public Health Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati speaks as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, right, looks on April 23 while updating the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference. Both are now limiting interactions with staff and taking extra precautions after spending time with White House officials who came in contact with aides who tested for COVID-19. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

JOHNSTON — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday she is following a “modified quarantine plan” after spending two days last week with White House officials and staff who had been in contact with aides who tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Reynolds said she did not come in direct contact with anyone who tested positive for the virus and she has since been tested, including Monday morning. She said the results have been negative.

Reynolds said nonetheless she will follow a modified quarantine routine out of “an abundance of caution.” It will be similar to one being followed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key figure in guiding the federal administration’s virus response.

Reynolds said she will be tested daily, have her temperature taken multiple times a day, practice social distancing, limit her interactions with staff members and wear a mask when she does interact with others.

“These steps are similar to what I’ve asked all Iowans to do if they’ve had contact with someone known to have the virus,” Reynolds said Monday during her daily briefing at the state emergency operations center at Camp Dodge in Johnston. “Again, while I didn’t have direct contact with the vice president’s staff member, it’s important that I do my part to protect those around me while continuing to serve as your governor during this critical time.”

Reynolds spent last Wednesday at the White House in a meeting with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other high-ranking administration officials. Reynolds gave the officials a briefing on Iowa’s pandemic response efforts.

It was reported over the weekend that one of Trump’s personal valets tested positive Thursday for the coronavirus.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Pence’s office tested positive for the virus, too. Pence was tested and the results were negative, so he maintained his plan for that day to travel to Des Moines for two events, with state religious leaders and with agriculture and food processing officials, to discuss the pandemic. Reynolds attended both events.

None of the elected officials at Friday’s events, including Pence, Reynolds and U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, wore face coverings. A video recording showed officials from food processing companies being told just before their event that they did not have to wear their masks.

Reynolds said she carried a mask with her Friday, but did not wear it because she and other officials and staff maintained a safe social distance between each other throughout the day.

“I want to assure Iowans that I’m healthy and feeling good, and I’m fully focused on leading Iowa’s response to the pandemic (and) on our economic recovery efforts,” Reynolds said.

Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the state epidemiologist in the state Public Health Department, also attended Wednesday’s White House meeting.

A department spokeswoman said Monday that Pedati and Reynolds had different contacts with different individuals during the week, and provided a statement from Pedati that said she also plans to quarantine.

“I will be following public health guidance and quarantining at home and taking my temperature and monitoring myself for symptoms twice a day,” Pedati said in the statement. “I will be working from my home and continuing to fulfill my duties as state epidemiologist and medical director. If it were to be necessary for me to have an in-person meeting or appearance, I will continue to follow public health guidance for essential workers.”

The state Public Health Department does not make a formal recommendation on face coverings, but says wearing them in public places where social distancing is difficult — like grocery stores and pharmacies — can help slow the spread.

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The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

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