Reynolds defends move to reopen part of state

Governor to continue to attend her church services online despite her Monday order relaxing restrictions on worship services

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

JOHNSTON – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, in a short press conference on Wednesday, defended her action to relax some restrictions in 78% of the state despite climbing case counts and a report from the University of Iowa saying the move could cause a second wave of coronavirus infection.

At Wednesday’s daily press conference, reporters pushed Reynolds on the report that was received early last week from University officials. The report was an initial finding as part of a contracted service between the University and the Iowa Department of Public Health for an Iowa-specific COVID-19 model.

According to a report in the Des Moines Register, the initial report said without continuing mitigation, a “second wave of infections is likely”.

Reynolds said the state is moving forward and with Test Iowa and other measures, including sending strike teams to where “widespread virus activity” is on going, the state will be able to be more targeted with efforts to contain the virus.

“I didn’t just rip the bandage off or flip the light switch,” Reynolds said Wednesday.

“I think we’ve moved forward in a reasonable manner to start Iowa up, which I think we can do.”

Reynolds said she appreciated the work the University is doing in coming up with the Iowa model, but it isn’t complete yet. She also said the University partnered with the IDPH and recommended restarting elective surgeries this week.

“It makes sense to start loosening up in places that have seen little to no activity. It’s not sustainable for us to continue to lock the state down. We need to start to open it up in a responsible manner in areas we feel we’ve seen a stabilization and a downward trend,” Reynolds said.

“We’ll monitor, which we can, and see how the state responds to lifting some of the mitigating efforts and start to move forward.”

Reynolds pointed out that 96% of all positive cases in the state in the last 24-hour reporting period ending Tuesday at 10 a.m. were in the 22 counties that are still restricted. However those are the areas of the state where most testing is being done.

Reynolds said 467 new positives were confirmed Tuesday for 6,843 total positive cases in the state. There were 12 additional deaths in that reporting cycle bringing the statewide total to 148.

She said 2,428 Iowans who have tested positive have recovered from the illness.

On Monday, Lee County Health Department administrator Michele Ross said the Lee County is not stabilized and has an upward trend, two benchmarks, Reynolds said she used to determine which counties would receive relaxed restrictions. She also used the number of cases and hospitalization rates, which are very low in Lee County comparative to those still under heavier restrictions.

As of Tuesday morning reporting, Lee County had eight positive tests for the coronavirus and no deaths. But on Wednesday afternoon LCHD officials released a ninth adult who was confirmed to have COVID-19 in the county. Des Moines and Henry counties have a combined 49 confirmed cases and have two reported deaths.

Reynolds also updated information from the Test Iowa site at www.testiowa.com. She said 442,000 Iowans have visited the site, but only 229,000 of those actually completed the assessment which means 48% are leaving the site before completing the assessment.

Reynolds said 65% of those completing the assessment are female and 39% are within the 45-64 age range. Until Wednesday one site for scheduled testing was set up in Des Moines at the Iowa Events Center, but on Wednesday another testing site was opened at Crossroads Mall in Waterloo.

Two additional testing sites are in the works for Woodbury and Scott County.

Reynolds order on Monday indicated churches were allowed to begin regular services again as long as preventative measures were included to maintain social distancing and protect church-goers. On Wednesday, Reynolds said she would continue to attend service online.

“It’s not a mandate it’s an option. That’s a decision Iowans get to make and religious services will make across the state. I’ll probably go online. I think our church has decided to stay online,” she said.

Reynolds said she was going to be on a call with Vice President Mike Pence this afternoon to get into the specifics of President Donald Trump’s order for the nation’s meat processing facilities to remain open, despite soaring numbers of coronavirus infections at those facilities.

She said the state has has a good partnership with facilities in Iowa, and the Centers for Disease Control and OSHA have new guidelines that should help these facilities stay open and reduce the spread of the infection.

“Testing is a big component of that and we’ll have to be aggressive with facilities in our approach and walking through new guidance to make sure they are, and they are, doing everything that can to protect their workforce,” she said.

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