Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday she was updating the state’s disaster emergency to extend business and school closures and other public health measures through April 30.
Elective and non-essential surgeries are to continue to be put on hold, and group gatherings of 10 or more are still prohibited through the end of the month.
Violating any of the public health orders is a simple misdemeanor.
She said it was a difficult decision to keep students out of the classroom, but saw it as necessary as it is anticipated the number of positive COVID-19 cases will continue to grow, and keeping schools closed will protect the safety of the students, staff and educators while reducing the burden on the healthcare system.
“At this time, I am not ordering schools to close for the remainder of the school year, as we have with all COVID-19 mitigation decisions, we will continue to monitor the situation, assess the measures that we have in place, and use data to make the right decisions at the right time,” she said.
The governor said it was incumbent upon Iowa schools to continue to provide continuous learning opportunities for students, and thanked public and private schools for the measures they have taken so far, stressing those decision should be made locally, as districts have the best idea of what works for their students and families.
“Making a sudden shift to virtual learning isn’t always easy, especially during the crisis we face now. But we can’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” she said.
The governor said Iowa Department of Education Director Dr. Ann Lebo has been working proactively with the education task force to develop a plan that defines options for continuous learning programs including non-credit and for-credit options. School districts will be required to pick the best option for the students and families they serve and inform the state of their decision by April 30.
Dr. Lebo highlighted the department has provided accredited non-public schools and public districts with two options for continuous learning: a voluntary option, where schools can encourage students, but not require them to participate; and a required option, where participation is required, attendance is taken, work is graded and credit granted.
Under new guidance, public districts and accredited non-public schools are required to indicate which method of continuous learning they will use from April 13-30., and will have until April 10 to submit their decision, she indicated.
For those choosing the required continuous learning program, the department is providing and expedited application process, and encouraged schools to work as quickly as possible to develop those plans, which may include delivery of content online, in paper packets of assignments, or both. Dr. Lebo also said accredited non-public schools may choose to provide required education services without applying to the department for authority but are asked to indicate that decision by the April 10 deadline.
While schools are encouraged to provide continuous learning opportunities through one of the options, they are not required to do so, she said, however, the department will follow up to ensure missed instructional time is made up “in a manner that is appropriate in accordance with circumstances at that point in time.
Any district or accredited non-public school may combine voluntary educational enrichment opportunities and required educational services for different grade levels in any way that best serves the needs of their students. They are also welcome to begin with voluntary educational enrichment opportunities and move to required educational services later.
The director also promoted a new educational resources webpage launched this week that provides optional resources for families and educators to use as they support student learning during school closures due to COVID-19, which can be found on the Iowa Department of Education website, and includes interactive games, virtual field trips, coding activities and e-books.
“I am grateful to our partners at AEA Learning Online, the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, Iowa PBS and the Iowa Reading Research Center who worked with us to make this resource page possible,” Dr. Lebo said.
She added the department will be surveying schools to identify and address barriers they face in implementing their continuous learning programs and is aware professional learning opportunities and Wi-Fi access top that list, assuring it is coordinating with the governor and partners so that resources are in place.
The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced Thursday it has been notified of 66 additional positive cases of Iowans with COVID-19, for a total of 614 positive cases.
According to IDPH, two additional deaths were reported; 2 older adults (61-80 years old) of Linn County.
There have been a total of 8,054 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 66 individuals include:
- Allamakee County, 1 child (0-17 years), 2 adults (18-40 years), 4 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80) years
- Black Hawk County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Boone County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Bremer County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Buchanan County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Cedar County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Cerro Gordo County, 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
- Clay County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Clinton County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Dallas County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 3 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
- Delaware County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Jefferson County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Johnson County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 3 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
- Jones County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Linn County, 3 adults (18-40 years), 4 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Mahaska County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Marshall County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Muscatine County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
- Polk County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 3 older adults (61-80 years)
- Poweshiek County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Scott County, 3 middle-age adults (41-60 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Tama County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Van Buren County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Warren County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Washington County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Winneshiek County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Woodbury County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 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.
Additionally, a Des Moines County resident previously reported positive turned out to be negative. A previously identified Poweshiek County resident was actually a resident of Linn County
Medical Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, Dr. Caitlin Pedati, spoke at Thursday’s press conference to how the department uses data and information it learns as it responds and adjusts to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The percentage of the population over 65 and their locations, long-term care facility outbreaks, rate of cases (the number of cases per 100,000 over a certain time period, in this case the 14-day incubation period), and the percentage of Iowans who have been hospitalized due to the virus are some of the metrics she said are used to assess COVID-19 activity.
“We’re doing this on a regular basis throughout the day, we’re doing it across the state and in partner with our local public health and clinical partners at a variety of levels,” she said. “We’re going to continue to look at metrics like this. We’re going to continue to work with a lot of our great partners and resources throughout the state of Iowa to adjust and remain flexible in our response.”
This story originally appeared on the Voice of Muscatine. Read More local stories here.