JOHNSTON, Iowa – Governor Kim Reynolds reported that a 17th Iowan, a resident of Harrison County, tested positive for COVID-19. Reynolds held a press conference at the State Emergency Operation Center (SEOC) after a two-hour meeting with different key state agency heads to discuss the state’s mitigation strategies to reduce the risk to Iowans and slow the spread of the virus.

Currently, 156 Iowans are under public health monitoring, and 47 have completed it. Testing at Iowa’s State Hygienic Laboratory on Friday indicated no additional positive cases, the Harrison County case received testing in Nebraska. All positive cases in Iowa at this time are travel-related.

Reynolds emphasized, as of yet, there is no evidence of community spread, but said they anticipate it happening. Reynolds ordered the cessation of nonessential business travel by state employees. She also noted that state employees who travel for personal reasons to areas affected by COVID-19 are expected to self-isolate at home for 14 days before returning to work. 

“Now is the time to dramatically reduce our risk and to slow the spread of the virus so that we can continue to mitigate it. But we must be responsible about the decisions that we make to do that if made too soon, some decisions may have serious consequences for Iowa families, businesses, and communities,” she said.

Reynolds said that the Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa Department of Education do not recommend closing schools yet, as some states and school districts have done. They have issued guidance for K-12 schools

“Now is the time for schools to be putting their plans in place for when community spread occurs,” she said.

“Now is the time for a measured and responsible approach,” Reynolds added.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring a national emergency on Friday afternoon, an action that will release $50 billion in federal aid, and he urged states to set up state emergency operation centers.

He also gave Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar the authority to waive provisions of applicable laws and regulations to provide doctors, hospitals, and healthcare providers maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients.

“We’ll remove or eliminate every obstacle necessary to deliver our people the care that they need and that they’re entitled to. No resource will be spared. Nothing whatsoever,” Trump said.

Reynolds said the state was working to do its part to slow the spread.

“We’re coordinating our plans and our resources and reaching out to businesses, healthcare, and other partners to be part of Iowa’s strategy to, again, slow down the spread of COVID-19,” she said. ” Next week, we are including leaders from Iowa’s healthcare systems at the SEOC. We will meet with them to discuss and coordinate plans for resources and staffing needs in our hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities across the state.”

Reynolds also had advice for Iowans. 

“We must be vigilant about simple, common-sense precautions. Wash your hands frequently, cover sneezes and coughs, and if you have any signs of illness, please stay home. Don’t go to work school or out in public when you could be in close proximity to others. And most importantly, if you are feeling the symptoms, we ask that you call the doctor first before going in for an appointment, and they will walk you through an assessment and help decide what are the appropriate actions to take,” she said.

“And I cannot stress enough that COVID-19 poses the most risk to older adults above the age of 60, and especially those with underlying health conditions, conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. If this describes You are a loved one, we again urge you to take extra precautions. The CDC recommends you avoid large public events in crowded places. Avoid cruise travel and nonessential air travel. Stay home as much as possible if there is an outbreak in your community. Keep some space between yourself and others when you are out. Stay away from people who are sick. And of course, wash your hands often, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home when you’re sick,” Reynolds added.

Reynolds also urged Iowans to check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to see if their travel plans include places affected by COVID-19. If so, she encouraged Iowans to self-isolate for 14 days.

Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the medical director and state epidemiologist for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said that they will make data-based decisions on when to implement specific mitigations strategies.

“And as we continue to investigate these cases, if public health reveals that there’s a new positive case that can’t be linked to a known risk factor, like travel on a cruise or a confirmed case, this will indicate that there’s a spread of the virus in our community. And when we see communities spread, we’re going to use proven public health measures and make recommendations to help people reduce personal interactions, and focus on things like social distancing,” she said.

“The idea here is that what we’re going to do is slow the spread of a virus to help limit a drop or help reduce the likelihood of a rapid spike in cases Slowing down and spreading out transmission of a virus is then going to allow all of our critical partners which include people like hospital personnel, police, EMS, drug manufacturers and more that they have a little bit more time to help respond,” Pedati stated.

“I want to emphasize that individuals, communities, businesses, and healthcare organizations are all an important part of mitigation strategies. Each community is going to be unique, and the mitigation strategies might vary by the community. What’s appropriate for them as they prepare, whether they’re experiencing community spread, communities are going to continue to make decisions at the local level with support from state and federal public health partners,” she added.

“Depending on the level of community spread that we could see local and state public health departments might need to implement additional mitigation strategies. And so as you heard going forward, we’re going to continue to closely follow contact tracing of these cases to understand the spread of this disease,” Pedati added.

She noted that the state has supplies for 850 test kits, but recommended that Iowans experiencing a mild cough and a low fever resolved with ibuproferin, that they stay at home to see if their symptoms resolved or if a test is neccesary. 

Watch the full press conference below:

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