Governor expands business closures across the state

Announcement on state small business grants could come this week

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

JOHNSTON – Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has expanded her emergency declaration to include more businesses and state campgrounds, but stopped, again, short of calling for a shelter in place.

Reynolds said according to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s regional mapping system that breaks the state into six regions, the regions on the eastern side of the state are the most dire, but haven’t reached a metric threshold.

Sarah Reisetter, the state’s deputy medical director has been part of Reynolds’ almost-daily pressers for about three weeks in the place of Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati, said the IDPH has set a point system of 10 to trigger additional mitigation efforts in those regions.

“None of the six regions have met the highest score of 10, but eastern side has the highest scores,” she said. “I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I can confirm none have risen to the level of a 10 as of this morning.”

With the death toll now at 25, 16 last week alone, Reynolds said the state and the nation are staring at the toughest week coming up and it’s imperative that Iowans be responsible for the mitigation recommendations already in place.

Reynold even brought Stephan Bayens, director of the Iowa Department of Public Safety in to caution Iowans against gathering in large groups.

“Most Iowas are being responsible and doing their part, but there is a small segment throwing caution to the wind and ignoring social gathering limitations,” he said. “That small segment has an enormous impact and law enforcement will take reasoned and measured steps if forced to do so.”

He said state law enforcement officer will encourage people to comply and disperse, but should all reasonable measures fail they will enforce the governors order.

“Own your behavior and be part of the solution rather than the problem,” Bayens said.

Reynolds said 10% of the total cases are among residents of long-term care centers with three outbreaks confirmed at facilities in Linn, Tama, and Washington counties. Of the confirmed cases in Linn County 175 are directly related to the Heritage Care Center in that county.

She made a pointed plea for Iowans to respect recommendations of staying home and follow health protocols so the health care workers on the front lines have the best chance to continue working.

“Every Iowan has a responsibility to keep family. friends, and the community safe, especially our most vulnerable, and health care workers serving on the front lines of this crisis,” Reynolds said.

“They don’t have the luxury of staying home. These heroes among us are putting fear aside and showing up to care of us. And we need to do our part by taking care of them. We need to stay home and we need to be responsible.

“I know this is especially difficult for all of you who are our warriors, and we can’t win this fight without you. Thanks for showing up and being the best sell for the people who are counting on you. Please know we have your back and will do everything we can to support you through this time.”

Reisetter said the state uses a benchmark of three confirmed cases in any care facility as an “outbreak” triggering additional direction and support from the state. That includes segregating confirmed cases, as well as staff so there’s no mixing of care for confirmed and non-confirmed cases, mandated shield and eye cover in addition to other PPE and screening of all staff, family and residents coming in and going out of the facility for fever and cough.

Reisetter was also pushed from pool reporters on the subject of asymptomatic transmission and said individuals needed to respect social distancing and all other health protocols during this outbreak to minimize those situations.

Reynolds said she is meeting with Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham today to go over data from small business grant applications that were closed on March 31. Reynolds said there would be announcements on those grants in the next few days, and the program could be expanded.

Additional closures under the expanded order include campgrounds, playgrounds, malls; tobacco or vaping stores; toy, gaming, music, instrument, movie, or adult entertainment stores; social and fraternal clubs, including those at golf courses; BINGO halls, bowling alleys, pool halls, arcades, and amusement parks; museums, libraries, aquariums, and zoos; race tracks and speedways, and roller or ice skating rinks and skate parks, all through the end of April.

Lee County Conservation Director Nathan Unsworth said all public county campgrounds will be closed at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

“I believe this was the correct call and I support her decision, we had already suspended cabin rentals locally. Our bathrooms and playgrounds are also closed. Campers with reservations in April should contact the Lee County Conservation office to reschedule their reservations,” he said.

“Our parks still remain open and park usage is up across the state. We encourage people if they are out at any park to practice social distancing measures just as they would going to the grocery store. Like many people, I find spending time outdoors to be a great stress reliever. This is even more true right now. Whether I am running, hiking with my dog, or just enjoying time in a park, I am making sure that I am staying six feet away from other individuals on trails, sidewalks, etc. I would encourage all other park users to take the same precautions. We all must do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 even when are outdoors.”

In addition, all unsolicited door-to-door sales are prohibited.

The IDPH was been notified of 78 additional positive cases over the past 24 hours for a total of 946 positive cases. There have been an additional 680 negative tests for a total of 10,653 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs. The total number of tests confirmed by the lab to date is 11,599 with 8.2% coming back positive, and of those 946 positives, 2.6% have proved fatal, with 99 currently hospitalized.

That state currently has 1,850 tests available.

The three additional deaths were also reported in the past 24 hours were in Linn and Tama counties, all older than 61.

The governor also announced a change in her press conference schedule, saying that press conferences shown live on Facebook typically at 2:30 p.m. daily, will be moved to a Monday-Friday format at 11 a.m.

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