BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds climbed up on the back of a flatbed Iowa National Guard trailer Tuesday in Fort Madison and helped unload medical supplies.
Reynolds was in town as part of a swing through southeast Iowa assessing efforts and commending leaders on the work to combat COVID-19 over the past 15 weeks.
She followed Iowa National Guard servicemen and servicewomen, who have been a large part of the fight against the COVID disease, including delivering personal protective equipment across the state.
“This is my opportunity to not only highlight what (the Iowa National Guard) is doing, but to help deliver some of the PPE and to thank the local emergency managers, local public health officials, and all of the first responders instrumental in helping address COVID-19,” Reynolds said.
“It’s been one big team across the state working collaboratively to address the virus, and in Iowa were doing better every single day. So we’re very optimistic about the future.”
Reynolds, along with Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, visited the Great River Health Test Clinic in West Burlington before heading to the Old Fort Diner for lunch, and then to Fort Madison City Hall.
She said the most recent data shows that Iowa has flattened the curve, moved through recovery, and is now in an economic growth phase.
“Our original goal was to flatten the curve, to protect vulnerable Iowans and manage our health care resources so we would flatten the curve and not overwhelm our healthcare system. And we have done that,” she said.
Current data shows 166 Iowans hospitalized with the disease and a positivity test rate of 10% with a 5.6% rate on Monday, but she said testing is at record levels since the virus showed up in Iowa. Lee County currently has seen 44 positive tests and two deaths from the new coronavirus.
“We have significantly increased our testing ability with Test Iowa and now anybody who wants to get a test can test,” she said.
The Test Iowa website at www.testiowa.com is still actively assessing Iowans and recommending testing locations by appointment.
But the governor said the state is also being proactive in watching for any spikes in numbers and will react aggressively to those clusters.
“Because of the testing we can monitor that and manage it, but people have to be personally responsible,” she said.
“It’s the same thing with the mask – it’s not a mandate. But if you don’t feel comfortable going out in public and you can’t social distance, we would recommend a face covering. But that’s a personal choice.”
The state’s role is also to educate Iowa communities, she said, as to where hot spots are occurring even down to a zipcode, so people can make the best decisions for themselves.
“You’re starting to see more people gather and we’re going to watch that closely and see what that looks like as we move forward,” she said. “As we do see an uptick in virus activity, we can proactively let the community know so, again, then they can figure out what they need to do to address it.”
Michele Ross, Lee County Health Department administrator said she spoke with the governor about contact tracing. While a large part of the state is using the National Guard personnel to conduct investigations, Ross said LCHD is still using their own staff to monitor positive cases in Lee County.
“We talked about contact tracing and what kind of team I had in place and how that’s going,” Ross said. “And I talked about how great Lee County worked together to do mitigation, and how our businesses reopening did it correctly.”
Reynolds said those kinds of stories are what gives her confidence to continue moving ahead with economic recovery.
“I’m really seeing some positive things take place across Iowa and that’s why we can continue in a very safe and responsible manner to open back up and get our economy going and get Iowans’ lives back to some normalcy.”
Locking down the state has been hard on Iowans, Reynolds said, and that has to be taken into consideration as decisions are being made to open things back up.
She said people being afraid to go to the hospital, not getting needed treatments, in addition to abuse and neglect, are all apart of being locked down.
“Child abuse numbers are down because we haven’t had eyes on our kids,” she said. “It’s just been a perfect storm for some really bad things to happen. So you have to take that into consideration as we try get things back to normal.”
PPE is still being delivered as the supply chain continues to open up. Reynolds said the goal is to regionally have 90 days worth of gloves, face shields, masks, and gowns on hand in the event the state would see an uptick in virus cases.
“We starting to see a lot of items we procured coming back in and we’re seeing the supply chain open up. I think, with gowns, we’re watching that and probably are still not where we want to be, but everything else were putting a 90-day stockpile in place.”
The entourage moved from Fort Madison to Fairfield and Keota with stops scheduled in both communities on Tuesday.