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Iowa’s rate of new COVID-19 cases was almost twice the national average last week, Gov. Reynolds says no changes are needed

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Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

According to the most recent report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Iowa was the state with the seventh highest rate of new COVID-19 cases last week.

“Iowa had 199 new cases per 100,000 population in the last week, compared to a national average of 100 per 100,000,” the report dated Oct. 11 said.

The task force warned, “Community spread continues in both rural and urban areas of Iowa and it is critical that mitigation efforts increase to include mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings in private to stop the increasing spread among residents.”

During a news conference on Thursday, Gov. Kim Reynolds acknowledged the state is experiencing “significant spread” of COVID-19, but indicated again that she has no plans to take new actions to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“I think we have to learn to normalize our lives,” Reynolds told reporters. “We have to learn to live with it and we have to do it in a safe and responsible manner. I think we can do that.”

The governor has defended not taking more actions by saying that Iowa hospitals still have sufficient capacity to treat patients infected by the virus.

At 10 a.m. on Friday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported that there were 468 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the state. That is a decline from the new record of high of COVID-19 hospitalizations reported on Thursday, 482. Thursday was the third day in a row the state set a new record for the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Also at 10 a.m. on Friday, IDPH reported a total of 104,552 Iowans had tested positive for the virus since it was first detected in the state on March 8. That was an increase in 1,330 confirmed cases since the same time on Thursday. Among the new cases were 25 residents of Johnson County and 57 residents of Linn County.

According to IDPH, 80,486 of the 104,552 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 are now considered recovered. In June, the department changed its definition of “recovered” for reporting purposes, and now anyone who has been confirmed as having the virus is automatically listed as recovered 28 days after testing positive, unless the department is informed otherwise.

Between 10 a.m. on Thursday and 10 a.m. on Friday, IDPH reported 16 deaths from the virus, which brought the total number of Iowans who have died from0 COVID-19 to 1,521.

On Friday afternoon, Reynolds signed a new emergency public health proclamation extending the existing “public health mitigation measures currently in place for businesses and other establishments until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, November 15, 2020.”

Section Four of the proclamation requires organizers of public events with 10 or more attendees to “ensure at least six feet of physical distance between each group or individual attending alone.” This requirement has been included in all of the governor’s emergency health proclamations since the state began to reopen.

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Reynolds was asked during the Thursday news conference if the reelection rally for President Trump at the Des Moines International Airport on Wednesday, where she was a featured speaker, violated the state’s social distancing requirement for gatherings of more than 10. The organizers of the rally, which packed almost 4,000 people into a small area, made no attempt to encourage social distancing, and instead had people seated shoulder-to-shoulder.

“It was never meant to prohibit First Amendment rights and to allow people to gather [sic],” Reynolds said about the social distancing requirement. “That’s what took place last night.”

Neither the proclamation signed on Friday nor any of the previous proclamations include exemptions from social distancing requirements for political rallies. All those proclamations do, however, include a different First Amendment-related exemption, specifically stating “Spiritual and religious gatherings, including any funerals or weddings, are not prohibited.”

But even in the case of those gatherings, the proclamation states organizers are required “to implement reasonable measures under the circumstances of each gathering to ensure social distancing of employees, volunteers, and other participants, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.“

People in the overflow area of Trump rally on Oct. 14, 2020 trying to see the president as he speaks. — Anjali Huynh/Little Village

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