Deputy Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health Sarah Reisetter and Gov. Kim Reynolds give an update on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, IA Thursday, March 26, 2020 Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Photo Credit: Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds, on Thursday afternoon, announced that she would expand the businesses ordered closed in her public health emergency declaration during a press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston. She also extended those closures and the prohibition of gatherings and events higher than ten people through April 7, 2020. 

She ordered all bookstores, clothing stores, shoe stores, jewelry stores, luggage stores, cosmetic, beauty, or perfume stores, florists, and furniture and home furnishing stores closed. 

Retail stores that sell essentials like groceries, medical supplies, or household goods, as well as other products, are exempt. So grocery stores, pharmacies, and most discount stores may remain open.

Reynolds already ordered the closure of restaurant dining areas, bars, fitness centers, recreational facilities, salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, medical spas, tanning facilities, and massage therapy facilities.

To preserve personal protective equipment, she also suspended all “nonessential” surgeries and procedures, as well as elective dental procedures. 

A nonessential surgery is defined as “one that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient.”

Reynolds also said they would revisit whether or not to extend the recommendation for schools to remain closed beyond April 13.

“I know that these decisions have an impact on families and businesses, which is why we have also worked very hard to put in place measures that would assist business owners, individuals, and families who have been directly impacted by the orders,” she said.

Reynolds stated her administration also anticipates significant help from the federal CARES Act, which passed in the U.S. Senate by a 96-0 vote earlier Thursday. The U.S. House has yet to vote.

“We are taking extraordinary measures to preserve our way of life, and this is not a typical economic downturn. And I believe that once COVID-19 is under control, that Iowa will make a strong comeback and again be recognized as a national employment leader,” she said.

“We are continuing to assess all aspects of the situation, every day, and we will do whatever net whatever’s necessary to protect the health and safety of Iowans and support the stability of our economy for the long term,” Reynolds added.

Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development, said that the unprecedented number of unemployment claims was not unexpected. She explained what Iowans could expect regarding unemployment benefits once the stimulus package is passed.

She said the bill extends unemployment benefits to 39 weeks. She also noted that self-employed persons, independent contractors, and people who work for non-profits that do not pay unemployment tax would also qualify for unemployment. Though, she made no mention of state aid for self-employed persons who have no employees. 

Sarah Reisetter, the deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), said that they were ready to recommend a shelter-in-place order if the metrics both at the state-level and community-level warrants it.

Reynolds warned that it is still early.

“We haven’t actually made it through the first incubation period. And so we haven’t even really been able to gather the data about the decisions that we made early on to see if we have started to bend the curve,” she said.

Reynolds also noted that some states with shelter-in-place orders exempt much of the workforce. She stressed those states are not doing much more than what Iowa has done to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are Iowans; I shouldn’t have to issue an order to say that you need to be responsible and stay home if you’re not sick. And I think the people that are not adhering to it right now, I don’t know if issuing an order is going to get them to adhere to it. We all have a responsibility to take care of everyone. And I’ve said that over and over and you have a responsibility to especially help our most vulnerable Iowans to make sure that we’re not exposing them. And we do that by following the orders that have been put in place,” she said.

IDPH, on Thursday morning, announced 34 additional positive cases in the state, bringing the state total to 179 cases. There have been a total of 2,975 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs. 

According to IDPH, the locations and age ranges of the 34 individuals include:

  • Appanoose County, one elderly adult (81+)
  • Black Hawk County, one middle-aged adult (18-40 years)
  • Cedar County, 1 middle-age (18-40 years), 1 older (61-80 years), 1 elderly (81+)
  • Clayton County, one adult (18-40 years)
  • Des Moines County, one adult (18-40 years)
  • Jasper County, one elderly (81+)
  • Johnson County, one adult (18-40 years), four middle-aged adults (41-60 years), one older (61-80 years)
  • Linn County, one adult (18-40 years), three middle-aged adults (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80 years)
  • Mahaska County, one older adult (61-80 years)
  • Monona County, one older adult (61-80 years)
  • Page County, one middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
  • Polk County, one adult (18-40 years), two middle-aged (41-60 years), one older (61-80 years)
  • Pottawattamie County, one middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
  • Scott County, one elderly, three middle-aged (41-60 years)
  • Sioux County, one older adult (61-80 years)
  • Washington County, two older adults (61-80 years)

Listen to the press conference below:

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