Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a news conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, IA, on Monday, April 20, 2020. (Photo Credit: Olivia Sun/The Des Moines Register)
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DES MOINES, Iowa – On Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that the state now has 3,159 positive cases of COVID-19 statewide in 82 counties. On Sunday, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced 389 additional cases. Reynolds, during her press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa, reported 257 new cases.

The increase in cases reflects surveillance testing conducted over the weekend at Tyson Foods plants in Columbus Junction and Waterloo, as well as, the National Beef processing plant in Tama that is also experiencing an outbreak. Surveillance testing at these plants accounted for 67 percent of the positive cases reported on Sunday.

“We will continue to see clusters of positive cases in these types of facilities because COVID-19 spreads quickly and easily among people in close proximity. And once the virus is introduced into this type of an environment, it’s very difficult to contain, but these also are an essential businesses and an essential workforce. And without them, people’s lives and our food supply will be impacted,” Reynolds said.

IDPH reports a total of 2,227 negative tests were completed since Saturday for a total of 22,661 negative tests conducted at the State Hygenic Lab and other labs. Reynolds said that the State Hygenic Lab currently has supplies for 7,556 tests.

Reynolds also reported that 1,235 Iowans have recovered from COVID-19 for a recovery rate of 39 percent among those tested.

The state reports five additional deaths since Saturday bringing the state total to 79 COVID-19 related deaths. Reynolds pointed out that 48 percent of the state’s deaths are residents of long-term care (LTC) facilities. IDPH reports there ten outbreaks in LTC facilities in the state, which means a facility has at least three cases among staff or residents.

According to IDPH of those who died were one middle-age adult (41-60) in Black Hawk County, one middle-age adult and one elderly adult in Linn County, one older adult (61-80) in Muscatine County, and one middle-age adult in Mahaska County.

According to hospital data from the Regional Medical Coordination Centers (RMCCs) run by the Iowa National Guard as of April 19, 2020, there are 214 Iowans hospitalized. The state saw 23 additional COVID-19 patients admitted in the previous 24 hours. There are 91 patients in ICU, and 58 on a ventilator. According to the RMCCs, there are 4,402 inpatient beds, 552 ICU beds, and 691 ventilators available in the state.

Reynolds said that IDPH is working closely with LTC facilities and food processors who experience a decrease in attendance or who have employees test positive for COVID-19.

“By identifying potential issues early, they can deploy a strike team to conduct even more surveillance testing, contact tracing, to understand the virus activity, identify and isolate people who are sick,” she said.

Reynolds also noted IDPH works with those experiencing outbreaks to implement additional mitigation efforts and develop plans for partial staff while staff who are ill recover at home.

Sarah Reisetter, deputy director at IDPH, said that the department asked businesses to notify them if they experience ten percent absenteeism or have confirmed cases.

“Public health will work with them to understand how to prevent transmission at the workplace. In some situations, public health may be able to assist with arrangements for surveillance testing, which means testing a group of people that might not even have any symptoms. This helps us understand how many people at a business or facility may be infected even if they don’t know it or are not showing any symptoms. Then we can begin to mitigate the spread through additional safety measures and contact tracing,” she said.

Reisetter noted that some businesses had requested surveillance testing and noted they are working with businesses on a “case by case basis” to respond to their needs. She said that the state currently does not have enough test kits to conduct surveillance testing everywhere it is requested.

She added that the state had sent dozens of contact tracers, some of whom are bilingual, to help county public health officials whose counties are experiencing outbreaks. She noted they are sending “strike teams” to LTC facilities with outbreaks that include an epidemiologist and infection prevention nurse, as well as other staff that is needed. They are developing strike teams for businesses as well that will consist of state infection prevention staff, National Guard members, and critical business infrastructure representatives.

“The COVID-19 requires a response on a much larger pandemic level. It will require more resources such as the strike teams surveillance testing in robust contact tracing. And throughout this response, we’ve reminded everyone that this is a new virus, and we must remain flexible, and we’re continuing to do that. So as we learn more, we’ll continue to adjust public health strategies to protect Iowans, and we’ll continue to share those strategies with you,” Reisetter said.

Listen to the entire press conference:

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