Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak during a press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Johnston, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, pool)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered additional restrictions for northeast Iowa on Thursday. The region moved up the Iowa Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 assessment scale into a range requiring additional measures beyond the current restrictions.

“As I have said from the start, I am committed to making data-driven decisions regarding our response to COVID-19 in Iowa, and today, the data tells us that Region 6 has elevated to a level ten. And this is due in large part to the long term care facility outbreaks, the severity of the illness, and rate of hospitalization. But it also takes into account the increase of virus activity in that area of the state,” she said during a press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa.

Region 6 includes Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Grundy, Howard, Jones, Linn, and Winneshiek counties. At 11:59 pm on Thursday, in those counties, all gatherings for social, community, recreational, leisure, or sporting activities will cease until April 30. 

Reynolds, in her order, made exceptions for weddings, funerals, and religious activities that are still restricted to ten or fewer people.

“Individuals are also required to make every reasonable effort to stay at least six feet away from others when they are away from home,” she said. “Businesses are encouraged to follow guidance provided by the Iowa Department of Public Health regarding infection prevention measures to protect employees and customers.”

Reynolds reiterated that every Iowan must take responsibility for their health and the health of others by staying home as much as possible and only leaving for essential errands. She also said those who can work from home should and those who can’t; she encouraged to practice good hygiene and social distancing. She also said those who have someone in their household who is sick should self-isolate. 

“COVID-19 is now part of our life, but it will not always dictate how we live. We will continue to monitor the data and adjust our mitigation strategies as necessary, as we’re doing today in region 6. But I believe that before long, we will see more signs of progress, and we will be able to get life back to normal,” she said.

Reynolds also announced that IDPH learned of 146 additional COVID-19 cases bringing the statewide total to 2141 cases in 82 counties. There have been 20,675 tests given, with 18,543 being negative. 

She also announced that seven more Iowans have died including one older adult (61-80 years) in Allamakee County, one older adult in Linn County, one adult (18-40), one older adult, and one elderly adult (81+) in Polk County, one middle-age adult (41-60 years) in Louisa County, and one elderly adult in Tama County.

Sixty Iowans have now died due to this disease.

There are 175 Iowans hospitalized, with 24 admitted in the last 24 hours. There are 84 Iowans in ICU, and 48 of those are on ventilators. 

Statewide there are 7,397 inpatient beds, 569 ICU beds, and 694 ventilators available. 

Specifically, in Region 6 (northeast Iowa), there are 48 hospitalized, with three admitted in the last 24 hours. Thirty Iowans are in ICU, and 14 are on ventilators. The region has 1,954 inpatient beds, 99 ICU beds, and 131 ventilators available. 

Reynolds reported 987 Iowans have recovered for a recovery rate of 46 percent.

She also announced two additional long-term care facility outbreaks: Linn Care Manor with 15 cases in Linn County and Lutheran Living Senior Campus with eight cases in Muscatine County. The state also suspects an additional outbreak at the Tyson Foods plant in Black Hawk County. IDPH sent 1500 tests to the plant to start testing the facility in addition to the 900 tests they sent to the Tyson Foods plant in Louisa County that has an outbreak.

She said the state is working with the plants to implement further mitigation measures. 

“So we’re working very closely with the facility, and we’ll continue to do that with all of our food processing and packaging plants. It, it’s an essential infrastructure, it is part of our food supply, we have to keep, we have to make sure that we’re protecting the employee. So that is always first and foremost. And that they know that because that’s how they keep the facility up and going. So they have a vested interest in making sure that they’re taking care of their workforce. But as we start to shut more and more of these processing plants down, then it backs up,” Reynolds said.

She said other severe consequences come from those plants shutting down.

Reynolds also announced a new initiative called Test Iowa.

“It is an initiative that will enable us to conduct large scale testing and contact tracing across the state. Test Iowa will allow us to ramp up our capacity to over 3000 tests per day in addition to the testing capacity that we currently have,” she said.

Reynolds added that the state was preparing to test for COVID-19 antibodies to determine Iowans who had and recovered from the disease. 

“That will be just an important factor in making informed decisions about how we target our response and again reopen the state of Iowa,” she explained.

Listen to the full press conference:

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