Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state’s response to the coronavirus during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Johnston, Iowa, (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, pool)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds, during a press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, said she still did not plan to order Iowans to shelter-in-place as a way to mitigate COVID-19 because the Iowa Department of Public Health says the data does not warrant it.

She was also unwilling to give a time frame for when restrictions and guidance in Iowa will be lifted.

Sarah Reisetter, Deputy Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, who was with Reynolds during the press conference, explained why they didn’t recommend a shelter-in-place order for now.

“We’ve heard your questions about shelter in place or stay at home orders. And we appreciate that Iowans wants to do everything possible to keep themselves their loved ones and their communities healthy. While sheltering in place is a tool that is currently being used in other states. We do not believe it is a mitigation measure that is necessary in Iowa at this time,” she said.

“It’s important to understand that sheltering in place for two or three weeks will not cause the coronavirus to go away. That’s because this virus is circulating around the world and can be reintroduced into communities from different places. There is no current treatment or vaccine available at this time. And that’s why it’s so important that we use the public health mitigation strategies that are available to us at the right times,” Reisetter stated.

“As we move through this public health emergency, our recommendations may change over time. Depending on the data we see about how this virus is impacting our communities, we may recommend adding more stringent mitigation strategies, and we also may recommend lifting mitigation strategies. Think of this as a dial and not a stick, which we will recommend turning the dial-up and down over time. That’s how we will slow the spread of the virus in our state in order to prevent overwhelming our healthcare system and to protect our healthcare workers and our vulnerable populations,” she explained.

While President Donald Trump said during an interview on Fox News that he wanted to see the country “opened up” by Easter, Reynolds affirmed that she wanted to see things return to normal, but did not want to speculate on a timeline. 

“Well, we want to get things back to normal as quickly as late as we can. And that’s why we’ve taken the various steps that we’ve taken, because all along by implementing the policies and procedures that we put in place, we’ve done that as a means to bend the curve and hopefully prevent overwhelming our hospitals and our public health workers. And so that’s been the intent all along. And if we can do that, and we start to look at some of the metrics, that we’re evaluating different areas of the state, that will also help us in making our dish our decisions to bring parts of Iowa back on as well,” she explained.

“I’m not prepared at this time to say a date, because all along, the decisions are so fluid. What I say, sometimes at a press conference, after we receive new data, I have to stand in front of Iowans the next day, and I’ve made a different decision. But that decision has been made based on the data that the Department of Public Health and their expertise has provided us along with other factors that we’ve taken into account as well,” Reynolds added.

Currently, her emergency proclamation states that businesses closed can reopen after 11:59 pm on March 31, 2020.

She did add that one of her considerations are decisions other states are making. 

“I’m going to base my recommendations on what I’m seeing in the state of Iowa based on the data that I have. But one of the elements that we look at is what’s happening in other states across the country,” Reynolds said.

She also said things like our population density are considered when making a decision. Iowa, being a rural state, does not have the population of New York State, which is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, but we do have pockets of population density. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health announced 19 additional cases of COVID-19 in the state, bringing the total number of cases to 124 cases in 30 counties, and 17 of those Iowans are currently hospitalized. There have been 2,315 negative tests to date.

The new cases are:

  • Black Hawk, one middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
  • Buchanan County, one middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
  • Cedar County, one older adult (61-80 years) 
  • Dallas County, one middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
  • Jasper County, one older adult (61-80 years) 
  • Johnson County, one middle-aged adult, one older adult 
  • Muscatine County, two older adults (61-80) 
  • Polk County, three adults, one middle-aged adult (41-60 years), one older adult (61-80 years) 
  • Poweshiek County, one older adult (61-80 years) 
  • Story County, one older adult (61-80 years) 
  • Tama County, one middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
  • Warren County, one adult (18-40 years)
  • Washington County, one older adult (61-80 years) 

Reynolds also cautioned Iowans about misinformation and to get their information from credible sites. She encouraged Iowans to visit coronavirus.iowa.gov for updates at the state level, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for additional and updated information about COVID-19. The CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the White House set up a repository of information online at coronavirus.gov

Reynolds also addressed state relief for sole proprietors and other self-employed Iowans who do not qualify for state aid or unemployment. She said the federal CARES Act may provide some relief. That her administration is watching the process of that bill and they will then assess what the state will do.

Listen to the press conference below:

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