Gov. Reynolds says ‘we now have community spread’ of COVID-19 in Iowa, but still thinks it’s too soon to take major actions

UPDATE on COVID-19 in Iowa:

Posted by Governor Kim Reynolds on Saturday, March 14, 2020

On Saturday night, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced COVID-19 has entered the “community spread” phase in Iowa.

“This afternoon, the Department of Public Health was informed of one additional positive case of an Iowa with COVID-19,” the governor told reporters at a hastily-called press conference. “The individual is an older adult, age 61 to 80, and a resident of Dallas County.”

Dallas County is part of the Des Moines metropolitan area. A few hours earlier, health officials in Douglas County, Nebraska, which borders the Council Bluffs area, said community spread had been detected in their county.

“We are confident we now have community spread in our state,” the governor said.

Reynolds read the definition of community spread to reporters.

“Community spread occurs when individuals have been infected with the virus, and public health cannot specifically identify the source of the infection, or determine how or where they became infected,” she said.

The governor, however, has not changed her opinion that it is too soon for the state to take large-scale actions to limit the spread of coronavirus. Instead of following the example of governors in other states experiencing community spread of COVID-19 and placing restrictions on large public gatherings, Reynolds offered a series of “recommendations”

“Leaders of institutions and organizations of events [sic] should begin to act on their contingency plans related to large gatherings, including church services, as Iowans prepare for worship tomorrow,” the governor said. “Iowans should not hold or attend large gatherings of more than 250 people and consider making adjustments for smaller gathering with high-risk groups.”

Earlier on Saturday, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an order postponing all jury trials in the state that have not yet begun in an attempt to limit the opportunities for COVID-19 to spread.

Reynolds has also not changed her position regarding the state’s K-12 schools.

“At this time, we are not recommending school closures,” the governor said. She did, however, offer some suggestions for what school administrators should do.

If a student, faculty member or visitor to a school’s campus is diagnosed with COVID-19, “we recommend a suspension of a few days for cleaning to mitigate spread of the virus,” the governor said.

In the case of “significant absenteeism of staff or students, they should consider a short to medium-length suspension of two to four weeks,” she continued.

The governor also recommended school districts “cancel extracurricular actives, as needed.”

On Thursday, the state’s largest school district, Des Moines Public Schools, canceled all classes and school-sponsored activities through the end of March in an attempt to help limit the spread of coronavirus.

Reynolds said it was up to everyone to use “common sense” to help limit the spread of the disease.

“I’m asking every Iowan to do their part to protect their health and the health of Iowans,” Reynolds told reporters, before listing another series of recommended actions.

Consider personal social distancing measures, avoid large gatherings, limit the number of attendees per gathering. Consider working remotely or online learning, when possible. Encourage staff to telework when feasible, especially individuals at increased risk of severe illness. Limit non-essential work travel and gatherings

The Dallas County patient diagnosed with COVID-19 brings the total number of cases in Iowa to 18. Fourteen of the infected individuals live in Johnson County.

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