BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
JOHNSTON – Iowa schools will now be closed through the end of the month, per an extension of a declaration from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.
During Reynolds’ daily Facebook press conference, she also extended the emergency proclamation suspending business closures and suspension of non-essential surgical and orthodontic procedures.
The proclamation provides additional regulatory relief and limits public gatherings to 10 or less, all through April 30, but does not order schools to close for the remainder of the year.
“Keeping Iowa students out of classroom is difficult decision but remains necessary for now,” Reynolds said. “We anticipate positive cases will continue to grow in Iowa and keeping schools closed will help protect the safety of students, educators, and school staff, and reduce the burden and flatten the curve on our health care system and workforce.”
Dr. Ann Lebo, the head of the state’s Department of Education, said schools are not required to offer continuing education through April 30, but those who do must indicate which option, volunteer or required, they are choosing by April 10.
She said the department will follow up on any school, private or public, that chooses not to offer continued learning, to make sure the instructional time is made up.
Reynolds asked that Iowa’s schools continue to offer some form of continued learning for the state’s students. She also said school officials will continue to get at least two weeks notice on any additional changes from the state.
Fort Madison Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater said the district will continue voluntary learning programming.
“The FMCSD will continue to provide voluntary learning opportunities via the resources teachers have put together on our website as we have done since the shut down. Please continue to have your children engage with these resources,” she said.
“Given Governor Reynolds’ announcement extending the closure, the FMCSD staff and administration will evaluate next steps in the pathways set up by the Iowa Department of Education and will continue to communicate this to our families.
“Our food service and transportation staff have done an excellent job of providing meals to kids. Our meals program was scheduled to conclude on Wednesday, April 8th. Due to the extended shut down, we plan on resuming our meals for kids program starting on Tuesday, April 14th.”
Central Lee Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier issued a statement during the press conference indicating Central Lee will be moving forward with a voluntary program.
“District teachers and staff will continue supplementary learning plans for our students. The Iowa Department of Education has provided school districts the option to require online learning that includes grading assignments,” Crozier said.
“Due to significant equity issues related to accessing high-speed Internet, this is not a viable option for our district. In fact, many districts throughout the state will not go with the required option for this very reason.”
Crozier said it’s still critical to offer the supplemental learning as that will hopefully bridge the gap of lost classroom instruction. He said all activities are suspended through May 2, which would include prom.
“We are aware that this includes our high school prom. We are committed to ensuring our high school students experience prom, even if it takes place later this summer.
“Please understand that we still believe it is critical to engage children in learning through our supplemental resources. This engagement in learning will hopefully bridge the gap of lost classroom instruction time.”
When pressed again about the possibility of moving to a shelter-in-place order, Reynolds stood firm in her approach to considering those on a community, county, and regional basis, based on data and recommendations she’s receiving. But state medical director Caitlin Pedati, who again was present at the conference, gave another reason.
Pedati said that asking someone to shelter in place could actually just delay a peak, rather than help flatten it out.
“In some ways it wouldn’t be enough if someone stopped in place for two weeks, because what that could do is delay a peak,” she said. “And what we’re trying to do is flatten that peak. It’s not that I want to push it out, it’s that I want to keep as many people healthy as possible as long as possible.”
Pedati also said it’s important for the state to be able to be flexible in mitigation based on information they are receiving from health officials across the state and the nation.
“We have to be able to target efforts and resources so we protect the people for whom the consequences of this illness are the highest, while preserving the workforce who are for these people, and all Iowans.”
Pedati said IDPH and other state agencies are looking at information throughout the day and how that feeds into the metrics used to base decisions, but she said that doesn’t mean the state won’t take action when needed.
“Our success will be based on our ability to work together.”
Reynolds said the state is also monitoring revenues and financial health. She said with the state coming off a $300 million surplus last year, it’s financial health was strong, but she is working closely with the state Revenue and Management departments to monitor the state’s finances.
“The Department of Revenue is also a big piece of this as we extend deadlines. But we’re very grateful that we entered this pandemic with a healthy state budget,” Reynolds said.
Wednesday’s state report indicated 66 additional positive cases of Iowans with COVID-19, for a total of 614 positive cases. According to IDPH, two additional deaths were reported; two older adults (61-80) of Linn County. There have been a total of 8,054 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs. The report showed that 74 are currently hospitalized, 144 have recovered, and there have been 11 deaths.
According to IDPH, the locations and age ranges of the 66 individuals include:
- Allamakee County, 1 child (0-17 years), 2 adults (18-40 years), 4 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80) years
- Black Hawk County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Boone County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Bremer County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Buchanan County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Cedar County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Cerro Gordo County, 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
- Clay County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Clinton County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Dallas County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 3 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
- Delaware County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Jefferson County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Johnson County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 3 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
- Jones County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Linn County, 3 adults (18-40 years), 4 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Mahaska County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Marshall County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Muscatine County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Polk County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 3 older adults (61-80 years)
- Poweshiek County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Scott County, 3 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Tama County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Van Buren County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Warren County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Washington County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Winneshiek County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Woodbury County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
A status report of monitoring and testing of COVID19 in Iowa is provided by IDPH and can be found here. 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.