DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds said she was “dialing up” COVID-19 mitigation standards due to significant community spread in the state with health care systems feeling the strain of increased hospitalizations.
Reynolds, during a press conference at Iowa PBS in Johnston, announced that the state reported over 21,000 new cases of COVID-19 over the last week with the statewide average positivity rate at 19 percent.
On Monday, 1131 Iowans were hospitalized due to COVID-19, over 700 more at Iowa’s peak during the first wave in the spring and early summer. She reported that 89 percent of those hospitalizations were Iowans who are 50-years-of-age or older.
“The overall increased patient volume is stressing our healthcare system, and it is putting capacity at risk. Surge plans are in place, and while beds still are available for patient care, staffing them is becoming increasingly challenging, as some health care workers may be sick or in quarantine or caring for other family members,” Reynolds warned.
“The situation has the potential to impact any Iowan who may need care for any reason, whether for COVID-19 or for some other serious medical condition. And we don’t want anyone to be turned away from our hospitals,” she said.
“These trends cannot continue. And it’s critical that all Iowans do everything within their power to stop the spread of the virus. Now, like so many states, we’ve reached a point of serious community spread, and we can no longer pinpoint any one age group or type of activity that’s driving it. The virus is spreading easily between people as they gather together in groups, or go about their normal activities, especially when preventative health measures like masking and social distancing aren’t being followed,” Reynolds added.
She signed a proclamation extending Iowa’s public health emergency disaster through November 30, and the new measures will go into effect at 12:01 am on Wednesday.
Reynolds ordered that community, leisure, social, sporting, or recreational activities with groups larger than 25 indoors or 100 outdoors are prohibited unless they require masks for people over the age of two, except while eating and drinking. These events are also required to implement social distancing measures.
The declaration also states that there can only be two spectators per youth athlete during youth sporting and recreational activities.
Customers and employees are also now required to wear masks at salons, barbershops, massage therapy establishments, tattoo establishments, tanning facilities, and other establishments providing personal services.
The proclamation continues to required bars and restaurants to ensure six feet of physical distance between each group or individual dining or drinking. They are also required to ensure all patrons have a seat at a table or bar and consume alcohol or food while seated. They are also to continue to congregating together closer than six feet. Groups seated together are now limited to eight people unless the group is from the same household.
Bowling alleys, pool halls, bingo halls, arcades, indoor playgrounds, and children’s play centers are now required to ensure that groups and individuals remain six feet apart at the establishment. And groups at those establishments are also limited to eight people unless the entire group is from the same household.
To discourage unnecessary gatherings in workplace settings, Reynolds also ordered all employers to evaluate whether more of their employees can work remotely and take reasonable steps to enable such employees to work from home.
“I know getting life back to normal is what Iowans want, and we’ve managed to get things back to normal already, even if they look and feel a little different yet,” she said.
“You can still eat in a restaurant; you can still go to a movie and work out at a gym. And in many states, you can’t do that. Iowa is open for business. And we intend to keep it that way. That’s why it’s time for these additional mitigation measures. But it will take all of us doing everything we can to stop the spread of the virus and keep it at a manageable level that we can live with. If we don’t, we lose the very things that we’ve worked so hard to maintain,” Reynolds stated.
She ordered law enforcement to enforce the new mitigation measures with the primary focus being on educating the public, but a violation of the order is a simple misdemeanor.
Watch her remarks about implementing COVID-19 mitigation standards:
Listen to the full press conference below:
Read Reynolds’ proclamation below: