Gov. Reynolds to give a primetime speech on COVID-19 Monday, as virus hospitalizations continue to surge

Gov. Kim Reynolds takes the podium for her Sept. 10 COVID-19 press conference. — video still

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office announced on Monday morning the governor “will give a live address to Iowans on COVID19” at 6:05 p.m. Reynolds speech will be live-streamed on Facebook and carried on PBS.

“Iowa governors deliver an inaugural address and, every January, Iowa governors give a formal speech to legislators, but this is the first time in modern history an Iowa governor has scheduled a night-time address to the state,” O. Kay Henderson reported at Radio Iowa.

The timing of the speech — 6:05 p.m., instead of 6 p.m., or her typical news conference times of 11 a.m. or 4 p.m. — appears to be aimed at getting the speech carried live on local news broadcasts, allowing Reynolds to unveil what her office called “new steps to fight the virus” without having to take questions from reporters.

The governor’s speech comes as the surge in new cases of COVID-19 that began at the end of September continues, putting Iowa hospitals under unprecedented stress.

On Monday morning, the Iowa Department of Public Health was reporting 1,392 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, 271 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. Both are new record highs for the state.

Reynolds signed a new emergency health proclamation last Tuesday that included a mandate requiring face masks to be worn at indoor gatherings of 25 or more and outdoor gatherings of 100 or more, and imposed a size limit at restaurants and bars of eight or fewer people in groups not from the same household.

Experts said these measures are ineffective when the level of community spread of COVID-19 is at the height it currently is in Iowa. The governor has said since April that she would rely on Iowans to “do the right thing” to suppress the spread of COVID-19 instead of imposing restrictions common in other states.

Even if Iowa was to immediately take steps shown to be extremely effective at stopping the spread of the virus, hospitals will remain under stress, as UIHC infectious disease expert Dr. Jorge Salinas explained to a meeting of Johnson County leaders on Thursday.

“The number of hospitalizations we’re seeing today are a reflection of the number of new diagnoses we had 10 to 14 days ago, when they were half of the number of new infections that we are having now,” Salinas said. “So you should expect the number of hospitalizations to continue growing in the coming days and weeks.”

“Even if we were able to effectively stop all transmission going forward starting today, the number of hospitalizations will still continue going up for the next two weeks.”

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