One day after Gov. Reynolds further relaxed Iowa’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported another 419 Iowans have tested positive for the virus. The department also reported another 26 deaths due to the virus. That is the highest number of deaths reported on a single day so far.
IDPH’s COVID-19 information site is undergoing scheduled maintenance this weekend and will not be updated until Monday. The information on newly reported cases and deaths was published in a press release from the governor’s office.
On Wednesday, Reynolds signed a public health emergency proclamation allowing movie theaters, museums, zoos, aquariums and wedding reception venues to reopen at 50 percent of their maximum capacity, provided they make reasonable efforts to follow IDPH guidelines regarding virus mitigation. Swimming pools may reopen for lap swimming and swimming lessons. The order also allowed schools to begin to offer in-person instruction and restart high school baseball and softball programs on June 1.
The governor also said on Wednesday she would allow bars to reopen statewide starting next week, but has not issued that order yet. Almost all the state’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions are set to expire on Wednesday, May 27 unless Reynolds orders an extension.
Asked on Thursday about her rationale for ordering this latest round of relaxations when it is still unclear what impact earlier relaxations have had, or will have, on virus spread in the state, Reynolds said the data she is reviewing shows positive trends that she and her advisers expect to continue.
“We have never said we would prevent people from getting COVID-19,” the governor said. “That’s unrealistic, it’s unattainable. What we have to do is learn to live with it and manage the virus. And we have to get things back to normal.”
The other two branches of Iowa’s state government are taking a more cautious approach than the governor.
On Friday, Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Susan Larson Christensen extended her order prohibiting almost all in-person judicial proceedings in the state.
“We know that people and families with pending cases are anxious to have their day in court, but we must first ensure that the public and court personnel have confidence that appropriate cautionary measures have been taken to protect their health when entering our courtrooms,” Christensen said in a statement.
Christensen’s order delays non-jury trials until at least July 13. Jury trials cannot begin until Sept. 14. All grand jury proceedings are also suspended until Sept. 14.
Some pre-trial hearings will be allowed, provided the guidelines regarding social distancing and other precautions are followed, but Christensen’s order strongly encourages the use of teleconferences and video conferences instead.
Christensen first ordered the suspension of in-person judicial proceedings on March 14, three days before Reynolds ordered the first round of business closings in Iowa.
Iowa’s legislative branch is also moving more slowly and cautiously than the governor. On May 14, the Republican leaders of the Iowa House of Representatives and the Iowa Senate announced the legislature will resume meeting on June 3.The legislature suspended its 2020 session on May 16, the day before the governor ordered restaurants, bars, fitness centers, theaters and casinos to close their doors.
Lawmakers are requiring visitors to the Capitol Building and staff to undergo health checks before being permitted to enter. Members of the legislature are exempt from those checks, and may come and go freely.