At her press conference on Friday, Gov. Reynolds noted how quickly the COVID-19 emergency has evolved in Iowa.
“It was 10 days ago that the first public health emergency declarations I signed went into effect,” she said. “We continue to monitor and evaluate the impact of the actions we’ve taken, as well as additional steps that might need to be taken the flatten curve and to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
When Reynolds issued her first emergency declaration on March 17, there were 27 confirmed cases on COVID-19 in Iowa. By the time Reynolds began her press conference at 2:30 p.m., there were 235, with confirmed cases reported in 46 of the state’s 99 counties.
On Friday morning, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported 56 more Iowans had tested positive for COVID-19, including six residents of Johnson County and five residents of Linn County.
• Benton County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Black Hawk County, 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
• Butler County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
• Cedar County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Cerro Gordo County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
• Clinton County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Dallas County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)
• Dickinson County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
• Dubuque County, 2 middle-age adults (41-60 years)
• Hardin County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Harrison County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 3 older adults (61-80 years)
• Henry County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
• Iowa County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
• Johnson County, 2 adults (18-40 years), 5 middle-age (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)
• Linn County, 3 adults (18-40 years), 7 older adults (61-80 years)
• Mahaska County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Monona County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
• Marshall County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
• Montgomery County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Muscatine County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
• Page County, 1 older (61-80 years)
• Polk County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)
• Tama County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
• Washington County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 2 older adults (61-80 years)
• Webster County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
• Winneshiek County, 1 adult (18-40 years)
• Woodbury County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
• Wright County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
IDPH also reported the deaths of two COVID-19 patients. One was over 81 years old, and lived in Poweshiek County. The other was from Allamakee County, and between the ages of 61 and 80.
Those deaths bring the number of deaths from COVID-19 in Iowa to three.
Reynolds said she and her advisers expect the rate of Iowans testing positive to increase during the coming week.
March 17 was when we went to substantial spread and we started some of the policies that we put in place, so we’re not even through that two-week phase at this time. So, we anticipated the numbers, as we’re testing more, the numbers of positive cases to continue to rise. We think we’ll probably see that through next week as well. And hopefully once we get through the 31st, or kind of the timeline where we’ve implemented some of the policies, we’ll start to see that, hopefully, flatten and eventually maybe — maybe — tick down.
The governor added another possible factor contributing to the growth of positive cases “is that we’ve had people return from spring break. And we encourage very strongly for individuals that traveled outside of the state to self-isolate for 14 days.”
For the second day in a row, most of the questions asked of the governor were about the possibility of issuing a shelter-in-place order. Reynolds said she still believes it’s unnecessary to issue such an order.
Reynolds was asked to reply to a petition circulated by a Des Moines-area doctor that states, “Substantial lack of testing, PPE and critical care capacity means that the state should be in shelter-in-place.”
“Here’s what we balance and this why it’s so important for me to make my decisions based on data,” Reynolds said. “I also have hospitals that have sent letters to me saying ‘please, please don’t issue a shelter-in-place, because it would exasperate [sic] what we’re trying to do.’ It starts to spread fear, it impacts the supply chain when we’re trying to get the critical PPEs across the state. All of that factors in.”
“So, you know, we have people on both sides of the issue.”
Reynolds became visibly emotional for a moment, when responding to a question about people who don’t take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, or who spread rumors that public health decisions are part of some anti-American conspiracy.
“I know that’s out there, and I know,” the governor broke off and took a deep breath. She continued, in a quavering voice. “You know, Iowans are scared and they’re nervous, and appreciate that, but we’re going to get through it. And if you keep doing what we’ve asked you to do, we will be back to those good days.”
“So, hang in there.”
On Friday morning, Rep. Abby Finkenauer publicly called on Reynolds to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.
“A stay-at-home order will not only help protect our health care providers and other essential frontline workers, but also Iowans who work in our state’s most important industries,” Finkenauer said in a written statement. “Iowa plays a critical role in our nation’s economy as a major player in the domestic food supply chain. From our farmers in the field to food processors on the factory line to those stocking the shelves at our local grocery stores, Americans — both urban and rural — are connected to our state’s food system. If we fail to control the spread of coronavirus and cases in Iowa continue to multiply, I am concerned not only about the long-term effects on our local economies but also the immediate impact on food and agriculture production.”
Finkenauer represents Iowa 1st Congressional District. All three Iowans who have died from COVID-19 were residents of the district.
The issue of shelter-in-place orders also came up at Friday afternoon’s press conference at the Johnson County Emergency Management Operations Center.
Rod Sullivan, chair of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, said the board was sending a letter to the governor urging her to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order. Officials in Johnson and Linn Counties had been working together on plans for possible county-level shelter-in-place orders, based on the governor’s statement earlier this week that county governments had the power to issue such orders.
On Thursday, Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness informed the board that state law doesn’t allow counties to order shelter-in-place. Only the governor had the authority to issue a county-level order, or delegate the authority to a county’s government.
Asked on Thursday about Lyness’ opinion, Reynolds said that despite her previous statements, she agreed that counties lack to the power to require residents to shelter-in-place. The governor said she currently had no intention of allowing county-level shelter-in-place orders.
At the Johnson County press conference, Sullivan also said the Board of Supervisors was asking businesses that are still open to consider modifying how they operate.
Based upon the recommendations by Johnson County Public Health, the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention we are strongly encouraging businesses to allow employees who can to tele-work from home to do so; implement staggered shifts and/or rotation of in-office staff; implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices, among other things.
Sullivan concluded his remarks with the same phrase he used at other public events since the COVID-19 emergency began.
“Please be kind, please calm, please be patient,” he said. “I think that’ll help everybody get through everything.”