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COVID-19: Groups representing more than 12,000 Iowa medical professionals ask Gov. Reynolds for a statewide mask mandate; 253 more Iowans test positive

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The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 253 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, increasing the total number of Iowans who have tested positive to 42,738.

The newly confirmed cases were part of the 3,052 test results reported by IDPH between 10 a.m. on Monday and 10 a.m. on Tuesday. The positivity rate, or percentage of people tested who were confirmed as having COVID-19, for that group of results was 8.3 percent.

The department also reported seven more deaths from the virus. According to IDPH, two of the deceased were residents of Johnson County. The newly reported deaths increase the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 836, including 12 residents of Johnson County.

Among the newly confirmed cases for the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m. on Monday were 15 residents of Johnson County and 18 residents of Linn County. The positivity rate for the 204 tests reported for Johnson County was 7.4 percent, and Linn County’s 230 tests had a positivity rate of 7.8 percent.

According to IDPH, 30,476 Iowans who tested positive for COVID-19 since March 8 are now considered recovered. The department considers anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to be recovered after 28 days, unless it is informed otherwise.

Major medical groups ask Gov. Reynolds for a mask mandate

The leaders of 15 professional associations representing “more than 12,000 physicians, clinicians, providers, pharmacists, health care facilities, public health professionals, and providers-in-training across the state of Iowa” sent Gov. Kim Reynolds a letter on Monday, asking her to issue “a statewide public mask order for all Iowans over the age of two.”

“Requiring public use of cloth masks represents an immediate opportunity to drastically reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our state,” the medical professionals wrote. “A statewide order, appropriately structured to account for young children and other special health considerations, further enhances the state’s efforts to protect patient safety and safeguards our initial progress toward economy recovery.”

Signatories included the presidents of the Iowa Medical Society, the Iowa Academy of Family Physicians, the Iowa Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Iowa Nurse Practitioners Society and the Iowa Association of County Medical Examiners.

“We had all hoped that our ongoing efforts to flatten the curve and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 would find our state in a position of community containment by this point in the year,” they wrote. “That is, unfortunately, not the case. In the past week alone, we have seen the number of Iowans with active COVID-19 infections rise to 6,565 — a 64% increase from the 3,993 reported cases on June 20 when we were all optimistic that we were starting to see the downward trend stabilize.”

Last week, the Iowa Public Health Association sent a letter to the governor asking her to issue a statewide public face coverings order. And Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, who served as Iowa’s state epidemiologist for 24 years before retiring in 2018, also called for Reynolds to issue a statewide mandate last week.

Asked for comment about the letter from the 15 medical professional associations, a spokesperson for the governor told the Des Moines Register, “Gov. Reynolds encourages Iowans who are interacting with others where social distancing is impossible to wear masks. But she does not believe a governmental mask mandate is appropriate.”

The letter addressed the voluntary approach the governor has taken, and concludes it has failed.

“Unfortunately, voluntary efforts have proven to not be enough,” the medical professionals wrote. “We have seen infection rates continue to climb. We have seen businesses forced to re-close due to positive infections among their staff. In addition, healthcare facilities and community businesses who have attempted to establish their own masking policies have faced backlash and enforcement challenges in the absence of a statewide policy.”

“It is now apparent that stronger measures are necessary to better protect our fellow Iowans.”

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