Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a press conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (Photo Credit: Cecelia Hanley/The Des Moines Register)

DES MOINES, Iowa – On Tuesday morning, Gov. Kim Reynolds said that a statewide shelter-in-place order would be “irresponsible” in light of the mitigation efforts the state has implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Reynolds said that Iowa is not like New York or California. She said the state is currently experiencing different outbreaks during her press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa.

“So it would be irresponsible for me to just do a statewide when according to Dr. Fauci, many of the mitigation efforts that I have put in place are actually aligned with the results that they’re trying to get. And we’re doing it on a community, county, region basis,” Reynolds said.

On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, said Iowa was doing a good job responding to COVID-19.

“I had good conversations with the governor of Nebraska and the governor of Iowa. It’s interesting that functionally, even though they have not given the strict stay at home, what they are doing is really functionally equivalent to that,” he said during the White House Coronavirus press briefing. 

Last week, he questioned why every state did not have a shelter-in-place order in place. Reynolds, during a press conference on Friday, said that Fauci was not aware of everything the state of Iowa had enacted. 

“I think there was a public response that they weren’t really doing anything at all, and they really are doing a very good job, both of them,” Fauci said. “I want to make sure people understand that just because they don’t have a very strict stay at home order, they have in place a lot of things that are totally compatible with what everyone else is doing.”

Iowa is one of five states without a statewide or regional shelter-in-place order, and Reynolds continues to be pressured by the media, some Iowans, and Democrats to enact such an order statewide.

“We have the ability to take a look at what we’re seeing happening across the state,” Reynolds argued.

She said by using the metrics, if the data shows in particular regions that they have to take additional steps, they will. Such as if the coronavirus moves across the state and western Iowa or north-central Iowa sees more cases. 

Reynolds noted that if the number of cases stabilizes, and they see a decline in eastern Iowa, they could then move to “open things up.”

During the press conference, Reynolds shared regional data from eastern Iowa that has been the hardest hit. 

On Thursday, Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the state epidemiologist, explained the scoring criteria that the Iowa Department of Public Health currently used to score each region. 

The two regions that comprise eastern Iowa are regions five (southeast Iowa) and six (northeast Iowa), and they currently have a score of nine and eight, respectively. A score of ten could mean a “shelter-in-place” order limiting movement to “essential” activity for 14 days. Reynolds pointed out the scores are aligned to the three outbreaks in long-term care facilities in the state. 

The primary purpose of the metrics, Reynolds said, was to preserve the capacity of the hospitals in each region.

As of Monday, in region six (northeast Iowa), there are 50 Iowans hospitalized, six admitted in the last 24 hours, 27 patients are in ICU, and 17 of those are on ventilators. There are 1,004 inpatient beds, 57 ICU beds, and 110 ventilators available. 

In region five (southeast Iowa), there are 20 Iowans hospitalized, three admitted in the last 24 hours, seven patients in ICU, and three on ventilators. The region has 713 inpatient beds, 94 ICU beds, and 181 ventilators available.

Reynolds said that they look at regional data and understand where the bed availability, PPE, and expertise are at so they can “move and adjust,” if necessary. 

In terms of the metrics, a region going to “ten” does not automatically mean a shelter-in-place order. Reynolds said the metrics are only a piece of what the state epidemiologist team and the Iowa Department of Public Health are looking at, and other assumptions are being made based on CDC guidelines.

“I think the more that we can do that, it’s more consistent across not only the state of Iowa but across the country,” she said.

Listen to the press conference.

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