CORONAVIRUS

UIHC encourages Iowans to keep washing hands, social distancing, because it has worked

State reports 16 more deaths Friday

UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran meets with The Gazette's editorial board and reporters in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 19,
UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran meets with The Gazette’s editorial board and reporters in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

JOHNSTON — University of Iowa health care officials want Iowans to keep on social distancing, washing their hands and wearing masks to help control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We do have one final ask for everyone,” Suresh Gunasekaran, CEO of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said during Gov. Kim Reynolds’ daily news briefing Friday. “The improving circumstances in our state are because Iowans are doing their part practicing good safety habits such as maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, hand sanitizing. (We) encourage each and every one of you to keep that up as we continue well into our recovery.”

Early on, Reynolds said, Iowa saw models projecting “staggering numbers of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths across our state that would threaten to cripple our health care system.”

Reynolds said the state’s health care systems have not been overwhelmed, thanks to Iowans taking personal responsibility and the efforts of health care personnel, such as those at UIHC, who described efforts there to test more than 10,000 Iowans and serve patients with coronavirus-related symptoms.

As Iowa continues to open businesses, entertainment venues and school-sponsored summer activities, maintaining good social practices will remain vital.

16 Deaths

Sixteen more deaths were reported Friday, including the first COVID-19 death in Cerro Gordo County. That brings the state’s total to 64 this week and 419 overall, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Three deaths were recorded in Dubuque County and two each in Polk and Marshall counties.

A Test Iowa site will open in Marshall County, along with sites in Sioux Center and Burlington, Reynolds announced.

A Test Iowa site in Sioux City that opened May 4 closed on Friday. Reynolds said one in 11 Woodbury County residents have been tested, with a majority of the tests being done by Sioux City-area health care providers, who will continue to provide testing.

“Iowans are doing a great job. Continue to do what you’re doing and we’re going to continue to see the positive outcome,” Reynolds said.

Testing update

Key to that positive outcome, Reynolds said, will be an increase in the availability of testing.

As of this week, testing criteria now allows any Iowan to be tested, regardless of symptoms or potential exposure to the virus. First, they must complete an assessment — at testiowa.com — and schedule an appointment at a test site.

The expanded testing was announced Thursday and by Friday morning, 1,700 appointments had been scheduled.

As Iowans return to work in retail, food services and health care, first responders and law enforcement are at higher risk of exposure at work. The Test Iowa sites — including one at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids — are “a resource that you can use at any time to ensure your health and well-being,” the governor said.

Reynolds also reported that after 10 days of testing, she is no longer in “modified quarantine” after her meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, who was exposed to a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19.

Most at risk

The overwhelming majority of COVID-19 deaths are among older Iowans or those with underlying health issues. More than 50 percent of the deaths were residents of long-term care facilities, Reynolds said. Public health data shows there are 32 outbreaks and 219 deaths in long-term care facilities.

Of the 119,469 Iowans tested for COVID-19, 16,415 or 13.7 percent were positive.

Polk County has recorded 3,493 positive cases followed by Woodbury with 2,462, Black Hawk, 1,661, and Linn, 915. Polk also has had the most deaths, 92. Linn has had 74, Black Hawk, 37, Muscatine, 35, and Tama and Woodbury, 23 each.

Over the weekend, the state will be conducting planned system maintenance so some agency websites, including coronavirus.iowa.gov, may be down or not updating, Reynolds said. The websites will not reflect current information, which will be released via news releases.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

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