Gov. Kim Reynolds discusses the process behind her decision to suspend nonessential surgeries in Iowa amid the coronavirus outbreak, including surgical abortions.
Des Moines Register
As more leaders push Iowa to enforce stricter stay-at-home policies during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Kim Reynolds remained firm that internal data doesn’t say the extra measure is necessary.
“I can’t lock the state down,” Reynolds said at Tuesday’s news conference about the public health crisis. “I can’t lock everybody at home.”
She echoed her previous requests that Iowans limit how often they go out, minimize their contact and keep their distance from others. She has already shut down bars and many retail establishments, limited gatherings to 10 people or fewer and asked businesses to let employees work from home when possible.
Additional requirements could put undue strain on the supply chain and essential workforce, Reynolds has said.
Meanwhile, Iowa neared 500 positive tests of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on Tuesday and another individual — aged 41-60 and of Muscatine County — has died from the respiratory disease. Seven Iowans have died from it so far. There have been 6,888 negative tests for the disease administered. A Des Moines emergency room doctor predicted on Friday that there are five to 10 times more people actually infected than have tested positive.
Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter declined to say if the state would prioritize widespread testing for a fuller picture of the spread.
“As increased testing becomes available, certainly there will be access for more Iowans to testing,” Reisetter said. “But at this point in time, it doesn’t necessarily change the treatment for somebody who’s been diagnosed with the coronavirus. At this point in time, there are no specific therapeutics or medication; there isn’t a vaccine for the virus.”
Linn County, home of a Cedar Rapids long-term care facility that has been identified as having an “outbreak” of coronavirus, has the most positive cases in the state with 90. The facility, Heritage Specialty Care, is tied to 30 of those cases, Reynolds said.
Care Initiatives, the parent company of Heritage Specialty Care, declined to comment on the number of cases related to the facility and deferred to the IDPH on Tuesday afternoon. An IDPH spokesperson has not responded to a request for how many COVID-19 patients are residents of the facility and how many are care providers at the facility.
The facility has instituted a no visitors policy since March 11 and all direct care staff are donning full protective gear before caring for residents. Infected residents have also been isolated from others in the facility, according to a statement.
A population’s age and vulnerability to a disease, such as those at a long-term care facility, are key metrics for determining if the state or a region should have stricter policies, Iowa officials have said.
Iowa is one of about 20 states that have not issued a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order, according to USA TODAY.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne joined U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, both Iowa Democrats, in urging Reynolds, a Republican, to issue a stay-at-home order to state residents. The Johnson County Board of Supervisors also requested a statewide shelter-in-place order, or for Reynolds to allow the county to take its own action. Johnson County was the initial epicenter of the virus in Iowa, and currently has the third most confirmed cases with 73.
The mayors of Des Moines and Iowa City, the state’s two largest cities, called for Reynolds to issue the more drastic orders last week.
Iowa Department of Public Health officials expect the number of cases in the state to reach a first peak in two or three weeks. Reynolds said she’s convened a working group of health care providers, hospitals, the Iowa National Guard and county emergency management agencies to prepare for a “potential surge” in cases.
“They’re planning for the worst,” Reynolds said, adding that they’re hoping current mitigation strategies will keep the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed. “… They’re looking at bed capacity, they’re looking at (intensive care unit) beds, they’re looking at vents, they’re looking at (personal protective equipment), they’re looking at what happens if one certain hospital reaches their capacity of beds.”
She expects a report detailing that Thursday.
On Monday, she asked Iowans who can sew to make reusable masks for health care providers based on IDPH guidelines, and highlighted efforts from private businesses and individuals to help Iowa through the crisis.
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