COVID-19: Governor warns critical time approaching, urges Iowans not to neglect mental health

Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a semi-regular press conference during the 2019 legislative session. She speaks in support of a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights for felons and better accessibility to oral contraceptives. 2/27/2019 Photo by John Pemble/Radio Iowa

Following the lead of President Donald Trump, who warned the nation Tuesday to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Kim Reynolds warned Iowans the next two to three weeks will be a critical time, and asked residents to all do their part to slow the spread of the virus.

The best way to avoid being exposed to the virus or exposing others is to stay home as much as possible, only leaving for essential needs, the governor reminded, adding Iowans should work from home when possible, practice good hygiene and social distancing, and if ill, to stay home and isolate from others in the household.

“I know we continue to ask a lot, but we need everyone to take these simple steps seriously so we can flatten the curve and protect as many Iowans as possible, and do everything we can to make sure we don’t overwhelm our hospital system and our healthcare workforce,” she said.

The governor stressed it was equally important to focus on mental health in these uncertain times, and Gerd W. Clabaugh, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, suggested steps that can be taken at home to help navigate the challenges of COVID-19 response, including:

  • Read and listen to trusted sources, including the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control
  • Unplug, warning that information, while useful, can also be overwhelming, so know when to take a break
  • Stay healthy by prioritizing sleep, committing to sleeping eight hours, and exercising, inside the home or outside (while practicing social distancing)
  • Control what you can – washing hands, practicing social distancing and staying at home as much as possible, as fear of the unknown can be unsettling, while taking control can help empower and counteract stress

Clabaugh stressed that some groups may have a special need of support at this time, including older Iowans and those suffering from chronic diseases who may be at higher risk of contracting the virus.

“For those of us who have loved ones in that grouping, be sure to check in on those at higher risk, and if you are an older Iowan, be sure to ask for help when you need it,” he said, adding those with pre-existing mental health conditions should continue treatment and be aware of new or worsening conditions. “Those of us who have loved ones who suffer from mental health, we need to be sensitive at this time, as well.”

Children and teens will also need help coping during this time, he said, and suggested parents maintain a predictable schedule of activities for them.

People who are helping with the COVID-19 response  — physicians, other healthcare providers and first responders — he advised can take steps to lessen traumatic stress, such as learning the symptoms, including physical fatigue and mental withdrawal; allowing time to recover and for the  family to recover; and taking a break from media coverage. And, if those measures are not enough, seek additional help.

“Ask yourself if you have fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones. If you have changes in sleep or eating habits, or you have difficulties with sleeping or concentrating. If you have worsening chronic health conditions or you find that your use of alcohol, tobacco products or other drugs is increasing,” he said. “If you answered yes to any of the questions, consider seeking additional help. Certainly, you can be in touch with your health care provider, and that individual can connect you to services.”

Should a loved one experience a decline in mental health or have suicidal thoughts, or be facing problems with alcohol, drugs or gambling, he advised of a service funded by the Iowa Department of Public Healthcalled ‘Your Life Iowa,’ which can be accessed 24/7 through its website,, where information can be found to connect the public with assistance. The website also features live chat, so it is easy to talk with someone directly, and a facility locator to find local providers

Help is also available by texting 855-895-8398, or phoning 855-581-8111

“We are all in this together, and resources are available to help us through this unprecedented time,” he said.

Gov. Reynolds also took a moment to recognize dentists across the state who have donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare facilities and communities since her suspension of all elective and nonessential dental procedures March 26.

“I am so inspired by, and grateful for, their generosity, and I just want to say ‘thank you’ for stepping up and making a difference. We are going to get through this. We are in for some rough times, but we are Iowans, and I believe we are going to come out stronger when we get through this. Thanks for leading, and thanks for making a difference,” she said. “That goes to a whole lot of Iowans out there that are stepping up and doing the right thing and helping be a part of the solution as we work through these challenging times.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has been notified of 52 additional positive cases of Iowans with COVID-19, it announced Wednesday, for a total of 549 positive cases.

According to IDPH, 2 additional deaths were reported; one elderly adult (81+) in Polk County, and one elderly adult (81+) in Washington County.

There have been a total of 7,304 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 52 individuals include:

  • Cerro Gordo County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
  • Clayton County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
  • Clinton County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
  • Dallas County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Des Moines County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
  • Dubuque County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
  • Harrison County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Henry County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Iowa County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
  • Jasper County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
  • Johnson County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Linn County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
  • Madison County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Mitchell County, 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
  • Muscatine County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • O’Brien County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Polk County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 3 older adults (61-80 years), 1 elderly (81+)
  • Pottawattamie County, 1 child (0-17 years)
  • Poweshiek County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Scott County, 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 adult (18-40 years)
  • Story County, 2 older adults (61-80 years)
  • Tama County, 1 middle age adult (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)
  • Van Buren County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
  • Warren County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
  • Washington County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 5 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)

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.

Upon further case investigation, a positive case identified as a Washington County resident was determined to be a resident of Keokuk County. Maps at the IDPH webpage and will be updated to reflect the new information.

Tuesday, Gov. Reynolds signed a new proclamation continuing the State Public Health Emergency Declaration. The proclamation extends regulatory relief allowing bars and restaurants to provide carry-out or delivery of alcoholic beverages until April 7. It also authorizes the sale of mixed drinks and cocktails for carry-out or delivery through April 7.

The proclamation also provides county hospitals greater borrowing flexibility, permits electronic corporate annual meetings, and eases certification requirements for law enforcement officers.

Read the full text of the proclamation online here.

This story originally appeared on the Voice of Muscatine. Read More local stories here.

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