DES MOINES, Iowa – On Thursday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said the day before the state relaxes some COVID-19 mitigation restrictions that normal will look and feel different for a while.
Last Friday, she announced that health care providers could begin to schedule elective and non-essential procedures provided they meet specific criteria with personal protective equipment. She also released the restrictions on farmers’ markets with restrictions.
On Monday, Reynolds announced that restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, race tracks, and certain other retail establishments in 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties could begin to reopen on May 1 with limited capacity and public health measures in place. She also lifted the suspension on religious and spiritual gatherings of more than ten people statewide.
“Iowans in many communities will have an opportunity to shop on Main Street, eat at their favorite local restaurant, or attend church on Sunday if they choose. These first steps are welcome signs that life will eventually get back to normal. But we should expect normal to look a little different and look and feel a little different for a while. COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” she said during a press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa.
“The virus will continue to be in our communities, and unfortunately, people will still get sick until a vaccine is available. Keeping businesses closed for weeks or months longer won’t change that fact, and it simply is not sustainable. It’s not sustainable for Iowans, their livelihoods, or our economy. We must all learn how to manage the virus in the course of our daily lives,” Reynolds added.
She encouraged Iowans to continue social distancing, practice good hygiene, and said those who are 65-year-old and older, as well as, those with underlying conditions should remain at home as much as possible.
The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported 302 additional COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bumping the state’s confirmed total to 7,145. Reynolds noted that almost 90 percent of the new cases are from counties where restrictions will remain in place. She also stated that 198 of the new cases were from Blackhawk, Dallas, and Polk counties.
IDPH also reports an additional 1,028 negative tests for 35,550 negative tests in Iowa since the pandemic began. A total of 42,667 Iowans have been tested equaling one in 74 Iowans tested.
IDPH also reported the highest amount of COVID-19 deaths in one day to date – 14 with Dubuque, Linn, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, and Scott counties reporting deaths. Thus far, 162 Iowans have succumbed to the coronavirus, the majority of those deaths being residents of long-term care facilities and Iowans with underlying conditions.
Also, 2,697 Iowans have recovered for a recovery rate of 38 percent among those who tested positive.
There are 335 Iowans currently hospitalized due to COVID-19. Polk County has the highest number of hospitalizations at 63, followed by Woodbury County with 51, Black Hawk County with 38, Linn County with 26, and 21 in Marshall County. Of those hospitalized, 49 were admitted in the last 24 hours, 121 are in ICU, and 86 Iowans are on ventilators.
Currently, there are 3,943 inpatient beds, 554 ICU beds, and 658 ventilators in the state.
Reynolds noted that Iowa expanded testing, case investigation, and tracing as the state takes initial steps to reopen so they can track virus activity, isolate positive cases, and target potential outbreaks in the state.
“This enables us to take a very measured and phased-in approach to Iowa’s come back. I believe that we can begin to get life and business back to normal in a safe and responsible way,” she added.
Iowa utilizes the same test as Utah, and the Salt Lake City Tribune reported that the accuracy of those tests are in question as Utah Test sites report less than half of the same amount of positive tests as the other tests used throughout the state.
Test Utah stated that they tested more asymptomatic Utahns than other sites. The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that even among those tested with symptoms, Test Utah saw two percent of their tests come back as positive while other sites show five percent of their tests are positive.
Reynolds, during her press conference, noted that Test Iowa site tests are processed at the State Hygenic Lab, through the University of Iowa, Utah processes theirs through a regional hospital. She said the State Hygenic Lab would validate all test results to assure that Iowans are receiving accurate results.
She added that Iowa is still keeping the criteria for who can test narrow while Utah opened their testing up to anyone.
Reynolds pointed out that the tests are FDA approved. If they were not, they wouldn’t be able to be used in Utah initially.
“So they have gone through the process, they’ll continue to look at what some of the positivity questions are. In the meantime, as we’re going through our validation process based on the requirements that are put in place so that we can assure Iowans that the tests that we are relaying to Iowans are accurate and providing the information that we would that we expect,” she added.