Iowa to strengthen enforcement of social distancing at bars and restaurants, as 582 more Iowans test positive for COVID-19

Taps at Sanctuary Pub in Iowa City. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Social distancing and other mitigation measures at Iowa bars, restaurants and other food establishments will have stronger enforcement from the state starting this week.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA), along with the Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD), will issue infractions for businesses not complying, according to a news release.

Iowa businesses — including restaurants and bars — have been able to operate at full capacity as long as there is social distancing. Establishments are required to have at least six feet of physical distance between groups. All patrons must also have a seat at a table or bar.

“COVID-19 is still with us and we need bars and restaurants to help mitigate the spread of the virus,” ABD administrator Stephen Larson said in a news release. “For those businesses that choose not to, they need to understand that there are consequences.”

The DIA and ABD announced the following “progressive discipline” for bars and restaurants that don’t comply:

• For businesses with an alcoholic beverage permit or license, the Alcoholic Beverages Division will issue a $1,000 fine for the first offense. For businesses with only a food license, DIA will issue a warning.

• The second documented infraction for either a business with only a food license as well as those with both a food and alcohol permit or license will trigger a seven-day suspension of the business’ alcohol permit or license by ABD, as well as a seven-day suspension by DIA of the business’ food license.

• A third infraction will trigger the revocation of all food and alcohol permits and licenses for the offending business.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said during a press conference earlier this month that she might bring back the 50 percent capacity requirement on bars in light of an increase in younger Iowans testing positive.

“We’re looking at different responses, and I think the most important thing is we be very targeted in those responses,” Reynolds said. “You will not see me shut down the entire state. We know where the increases are taking place. We have some idea of what it may be tied to.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health processed 5,611 tests from 10 a.m. on Wednesday to 10 a.m. on Thursday. The positivity rate — the percentage of people tested who were confirmed as having COVID-19 — during that time period was 10.4 percent.

IDPH also reported 15 deaths on Thursday. A total of 854 Iowans have died since the virus was first confirmed in the state in early March.

Another 34 cases were reported in Johnson County during the 24-hour period, bringing the county’s total to 1,833. The positivity rate for this same time period was 13.3 percent.

IDPH reported 41 Linn County residents tested positive for the virus. The positivity rate during the 24-hour period was 9 percent.

The county has had 18 days of consecutive double-digit increases.

The total number of Linn County residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 is 1,935, according to IDPH.

A total of 31,741 Iowans who tested positive for COVID-19 are now considered recovered, according to IDPH. The department considers anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to be recovered after 28 days, unless it is informed otherwise.

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