Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday she was expanding on the disaster emergency proclamation that is currently in place by extending and expanding retail business closures, suspending elective and non-essential medical and dental procedures, and removing additional legal barriers to ensure a continued strong response to COVID-19.
“As I have mentioned throughout the course of the last two weeks — and as recently as yesterday in my press conference — we will continue to take additional steps as necessary to further protect the health of Iowans and our economy,” she said at her daily COVID-19 press conference.
Effective at 10 p.m. Thursday, all existing closures, including restaurants and bars, will be extended another week until April 7, she said, and additionally, she ordered the closure of additional retail stores through the same date, including bookstores; clothing and shoe stores; jewelry, luggage, cosmetic, perfume and beauty supply stores; florists; and furniture and home furnishing stores.
Effective at 5 p.m. Friday, and through the duration, she has also ordered the suspension of all non-essential or elective surgeries and procedures that can be delayed without undue risk to patients, as well as all elective dental procedures, including routine hygiene, cosmetic or orthodontic procedures with the exception of emergency procedures.
“These actions will help us preserve the personal protection equipment as well as our health care workforce,” she said.
To encourage the use of tele-health services to screen and treat individuals who may have the virus, she said health insurance companies will reimburse health care providers for tele-health visits at the same rate as in-person visits. She also ordered health care facilities, including nursing homes, to engage in enhanced staff health screenings.
Having stated previously school closures would be reevaluated after two weeks, and with that date approaching, the governor said it has been has recommended for schools to remain closed until April 13, adding the situation continues to be monitored and assessed daily, and the government continues to work with superintendents across the state.
“I understand that these decisions will continue to impact the lives and livelihoods of Iowans, but the more we do now to mitigate the spread of the virus, the sooner we will get through this so that life and business can get back to normal,” she said.
Referencing the United States Department of Labor initial unemployment claim numbers released earlier today, Gov. Reynolds said the number of initial claims filed in Iowa between Sunday, March 15 and Saturday, March 21 was 40,952, adding more than $10.6 million of unemployment insurance benefits were paid to Iowans in the week ending March 20.
“The numbers we’re seeing now are unprecedented, but not unexpected,” she said. “In Iowa and states across the country, we have intentionally dialed some up some business sectors, dialed some business sectors back as part of our COVID-19 mitigation plans. I know that these decisions have an impact on families and businesses, which is why we have also worked very hard to put in place measures that would assist business owners, individuals and families who have been directly impacted by the orders.”
The governor said the state anticipates more assistance is coming through the CARES Act stimulus bill that was passed by the Senate overnight and will be considered by the House Friday.
“in these uncertain times, we are taking extraordinary measures to preserve our way of life,” she said. “This is not a typical economic downturn, and I believe that once COVID-19 is under control, that Iowa will make a strong comeback and again be recognized as a national employment leader.
The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) was notified of 34 additional positive cases of Iowans with COVID-19, it was announced Thursday, for a total of 179 positive cases. There have been a total of 2,975 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs.
According to IDPH, the locations and age ranges of the 34 individuals include:
- Appanoose County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Black Hawk County, 1 middle-age adult (18-40 years)
- Cedar County, 1 middle-age (18-40 years), 1 older (61-80 years), 1 elderly (81+)
- Clayton County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Des Moines County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Jasper County, 1 elderly (81+)
- Johnson County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 4 middle-aged adults (41-60 years), 1 older (61-80 years)
- Linn County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 3 middle-aged adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Mahaska County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Monona County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Page County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
- Polk County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 2 middle-aged (41-60 years), 1 older (61-80 years)
- Pottawattamie County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)
- Scott County, 1 elderly, 3 middle-aged (41-60 years)
- Sioux County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Washington County, 2 older adults (61-80 years)
A status report of monitoring and testing of COVID19 in Iowa is provided by IDPH and can be found here. In addition, a public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431.
The state of Iowa has started sharing the number of negative tests conducted at outside labs and is providing additional information on the conditions of those infected with COVID-19.
Gov. Reynolds received notification Wednesday night that President Donald Trump had approved her request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for COVID-19, removing a $5 million cap on federal funds as well as making available the Community Disaster Loan program.
“I want to thank President Trump for his quick response in approving Iowa’s disaster declaration because it will open up federal resources to Iowa as we combat the spread of COVID-19,” said Gov. Reynolds. “This outbreak is an unprecedented crisis for the entire nation and it’s going to take a whole-of-government approach to limit the spread of the virus and provide economic relief to all of those impacted.”
The declaration provides assistance for work and services to save lives and protect property, to include emergency protective measures.
Gov. Reynolds had also requested activation of the federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counseling programs and statewide Hazard Mitigation Assistance funding. Those portions of her request are still under consideration.
This story originally appeared on the Voice of Muscatine. Read More local stories here.