Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds held a press conference on COVID-19 and the state’s response at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa on Monday, April 27, 2020. (Photo Credit: Olivia Sun/The Des Moines Register)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds announced restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, race tracks, and certain other retail establishments in 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties could begin to re-open 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. 

Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Dallas, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fayette, Henry, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Louisa, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Tama, Washington, and Woodbury counties have all of their business closings extended through May 15. 

All other business closures not included in Monday’s declaration are extended until May 15. Social, community, recreational, leisure, and sporting gatherings and events of more than ten people are prohibited statewide until May 15. 

Churches and other religious organizations are required to implement “reasonable measures” to ensure social distancing among staff, volunteers, and other participants. 

Businesses allowed to open must only operate at 50 percent of their room capacity, implementing social distancing practices, and no group activities larger than ten people. Restaurants may seat groups no larger than six people.

“The reality is that we can’t stop the virus that it will remain in our communities until a vaccine is available. Instead, we must learn to live with COVID virus activity without letting it govern our lives,” Reynolds said during a press conference on Monday at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston. 

“As Governor, I had the responsibility to implement significant mitigation measures to protect Iowans during an unprecedented time, which included closing some businesses suspending elective procedures, as well as many other things all in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, preserve critical healthcare resources and prevent overwhelming our hospital systems. However, this level of mitigation is not sustainable for the long term, and it has unintended consequences for Iowa families. So we must gradually shift from an aggressive mitigation strategy to focusing on containing and managing virus activity for the long term in a way that allows us to safely and responsibly balance the health of our people and the health of our economy,” she added.

Reynolds said that she strongly encouraged vulnerable Iowans throughout the state, those with underlying conditions or who are older than 65 years-of-age, to continue limiting their activities outside the home.

She added that her decision to open 77 counties up in a limited way was based on data. 

“What we’re taking a look at is virus activity in these counties. And what we’ve seen is that at whether they have stabilized and started to see a downward trend over the 14 days, so we’re looking at new case virus activity, the rate of positivity. We’re also taking into account the hospitalization rates (through data provided by the Regional Medical Coordination Centers or RMCCs daily), ” Reynolds noted.

She added they are also looking at the number of cases of Iowans who recovered.

Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the state epidemiologist with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), said that additional data allows a flexible approach. 

“We’re always thinking about the approach to this virus, keeping in mind what we know as we’ve learned more, and as we’ve acquired new tools to help support public health and clinical activities to address the virus. So continuing to be flexible as we get more information, and continuing to leverage the increasing resources that we have to be more targeted… which includes things (like) enhanced testing and enhanced contact tracing and case investigation,” she said.

Through the Test Iowa Initiative, the state will add the ability to test 3,000 additional Iowans to their current daily capacity. Reynolds said the state begun serology testing for COVID-19 antibodies as well. 

In terms of closures, the governor said they continue to evaluate the data at the county and community level. She noted that she could add counties to the current list of 77 and expand the list of business openings should the data warrant it. 

IDPH announced 384 additional cases on Sunday and 349 on Monday for a total of 5868 COVID-19 cases in 84 counties. They also announced 1,356 negative tests on Sunday and 1,668 on Monday for a total of 32,282 negative tests. One in 82 Iowans have been tested for COVID-19. 

IDPH noted that the number of positive cases would grow as Test Iowa sites open, and additional surveillance testing of large businesses and nursing home staff continues.  

They also reported six additional deaths on Sunday and nine on Monday for a total of 127 Iowans who passed away due to COVID-19. 

The deaths reported Sunday and Monday occurred in the following counties:

  • Black Hawk County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years), two older adults (61-80 years).
  • Bremer County, one elderly adult (81+)
  • Clinton County, one elderly adult   
  • Des Moines County, one older adult
  • Dubuque County, one older adult
  • Johnson County, one adult (18-40 years), one elderly adult    
  • Linn County, one elderly adult
  • Polk County, three elderly adults 
  • Poweshiek County, one elderly adult 
  • Washington County, one elderly adult

IDPH also announced that 2,021 Iowans have recovered for a recovery rate of 34 percent among those who tested positive for COVID-19. 

The RMCCs report 300 Iowans with COVID-19 are hospitalized across the state, with 31 patients admitted within the last 24 hours. There are 100 patients in ICU statewide, and 58 are on a ventilator. 

There are currently 4,234 inpatient beds, 556 ICU beds, and 699 ventilators available statewide.  

Listen to the entire press conference below:

Read Reynolds’ entire proclamation below:

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