Gov. Reynolds suspends foreclosures, says state is being ‘proactive’ in supplying medical needs, as UIHC asks the public for donations of protective gear

Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers remarks on the coronavirus pandemic in Iowa, Sunday, March 22, 2020. — video still

Gov. Reynolds suspended all foreclosures on residential, commercial and agricultural properties on Sunday. The suspension, which lasts through April 16, was included in a new State Public Health Emergency Declaration.

The new declaration also closes businesses not covered in the emergency declarations the governor issued on March 17 and 19.

“Effective at 10 p.m. today, salons and barbershops, medical spas, massage therapy, tattoo establishments, tanning salons and swimming pools will be closed until March 31,” Gov. Reynolds said at a Sunday afternoon press conference on the state’s response to COVID-19.

Sunday’s declaration also relaxed certain professional licensing regulations, waiving requirements for in-person continuing education or the need to renew licenses that will expire during the current emergency.

The governor’s actions came as the Iowa Department of Public Health announced 22 more Iowans have tested positive for COVID-19, including five residents of Johnson County and one resident of Linn County

• Cerro Gordo County, 2 adults (18-40 years)

• Dallas County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)

• Dubuque County, 2 middle-aged adults (41-60 years)

• Harrison County, 2 older adults (61-80 years)

• Johnson County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle-aged (41-60 years), 2 older (61-80 years)

• Kossuth County, 1 adult (18-40 years)

• Linn County, 1 middle age adult (41-60 years)

• Poweshiek County, 1 elderly adult (81 years or older)

• Scott County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)

• Sioux County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)

• Tama County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)

• Washington County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)

• Woodbury County, 1 middle-aged adult (41-60 years)

The new cases bring the state’s total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 90.

In her prepared remarks at the press conference, Reynolds focused on what the state is doing to provide childcare for people performing what are deemed essential services.

“The reality is, if childcare closes, parents of young children who are employed in essential services — such as health care, emergency services, food production and supply, and manufacturing — won’t be able to work,” the governor said. “And now more than ever, we need these essential services up and running.”

“We’re partnering with school superintendents, community organizations and churches across to identify space and volunteers, so we can quickly stand-up childcare programs for school-age children, whose parents are essential employees,” she continued.

Reynolds said that 117 school districts and non-public schools have agreed to provide space for the childcare program, and 94 of those locations say they have staff ready to work.

The first of these new childcare programs will open on Monday in Council Bluffs, Reynolds said.

But according to the governor, more locations are needed.

“I’m asking schools, churches and other community facilities to join us in being a part of this solution,” she said. “If you have the space, we have a plan to quickly put a program in place.”

It was a different need that made headlines on Sunday morning, as University of Iowa Health Care announced it is running short of an important piece of protective equipment.

“University of Iowa Health Care leaders today issued an urgent request for Iowa businesses and individuals to donate new or used protective face shields to the hospital,” UIHC said in a written statement. “The shields are used by hospital staff to keep employees safe and help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19.”

UIHC later updated its request to say, “UI Hospitals & Clinics encourages and will gladly accept homemade protective face shields from individuals or manufacturers.” UHIC has linked to online instructions on how to make the face shields.

There are also online instructions on how to drop-off donations of the shields or other personal protective equipment (PPE) for UIHC.

Army trainers show NHS doctors and nurses how to put on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the 2014 ebola outbreak. — Simon Davis/DFID

At her press conference, Gov. Reynolds was asked if the federal government should be directly providing PPE to health care facilities in areas with large numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19. (As of Sunday afternoon, 32 Johnson County residents have tested positive for the disease.)

In response, the governor said her administration is being “proactive in really making sure we can provide our health care personal protective equipment that they need to continue to serve Iowans.”

We’re working with the [Trump] administration and FEMA to stock our national stockpile, so orders are going in there. Orders are going in to local providers as well. We have stood up a system in our state — well, actually, it’s been set up, but we’ve stood that up — with the National Guard and the [Iowa] Department of Public Health, so… the health care facilities can order through the system and we can help prioritize where some of the ‘hot zones’ are, to make sure that we can keep track of what the supplies are and how we can get them to the areas that we need to get them to.

Reynolds said her administration is also working with private businesses to ensure an adequate supply of PPE, and explained she has ordered the Iowa Department of Correction to use prison labor to manufacture medical-grade masks and other protective equipment. The governor had previously ordered that prisoners be used to make hand sanitizer.

A reporter asked Reynolds what can be done to hold accountable individuals and businesses violating the state’s new ban of gathering of more than 10 people.

“First of all, we’re Iowans and we should all hold ourselves accountable,” Reynolds replied. “And we should do the right thing.”

Strict enforcement of the ban could put a strain on law enforcement agencies, who are busy with other priorities, Reynolds noted. She suggested a way to encourage, rather than enforce, compliance.

“Get on social media and say, ‘I’m doing my part, are you doing yours?’” Reynolds said. “Let’s use social media. Let’s talk to your friends as you’re social gathering through social media, then encourage them. Look for opportunities to do new things like that.”

The governor was asked if it would be easier and more effective to issue a shelter-in-place order, requiring people not engaged in essential work to stay at home.

“No, because I think we can manage it if Iowans will do what I’m asking them to do,” she replied. “We have a lot of essential services, we have a supply chain, we have [a] health care system that we need to stand up and so we need to make sure that we have a work that’s able to meet those needs.

As of Sunday afternoon, seven other states — California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana and Ohio — had issued shelter-in-place orders. All of those orders have provisions allowing people who provide essential services to go to work.

On Sunday morning, the mayors of Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty issued a joint statement asking residents to stay home and limit non-essential activities as much as possible.

“I strongly recommend that everyone limit their trips outside of their home and isolate in place as much as possible for the next two weeks,” Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague said.

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