Governor eases restrictions for most of Iowa

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The counties shaded in orange will continue to have full restrictions until May 15.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced at her April 27 COVID-19 press conference that restrictions will be eased on businesses and religious centers in 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties on May 1. The other 22 counties should see eased restrictions on May 15.

Reynolds shared that the tools the state now has will allow a more targeted approach to containing the virus. It is likely that COVID-19 is in every county in Iowa, and she believes the time has come to balance livelihoods and saving lives.

Restaurants, fitness centers and stores previously affected will be able to open up to 50 percent of their capacity. Social clubs, community organizations, recreational and entertainment gatherings will continue to be limited to 10 people. Religious organizations may also resume services as of May 1, as long as they continue to follow social distancing and other guidelines the state has stressed throughout the pandemic.

Marion County is among the 77 counties that can reopen. Those that remain closed are the ones with the highest concentration of COVID-19. They include neighboring counties Polk and Jasper, as well as Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Des Moines, Dallas, Dubuque, Fayette, Henry, Iowa, Johnson, Linn, Louisa, Marshall, Muscatine, Poweshiek, Scott, Tama, Washington and Woodbury.

Reynolds and her staff continue to encourage those with pre-existing conditions, as well as those age 65 and older, to take proper precautions and limit their exposure to others. She asked all Iowans to continue the safe behaviors that have been sought thus far.

“Our work is not done,” Reynolds said. She hopes Iowans will continue to be safe so that all businesses in all 99 counties can eventually reopen.

The decision to maintain restrictions on the 22 counties for two more weeks is based on virus activity. The virus has been most active in those 22. Numbers will continue to be monitored every day. There were 393 new positive cases reported on April 27, to bring to the total to 5,868 in Iowa. There have been 38,150 people tested, or 1 in 82 Iowans. Of those tested, 32,282 have tested negative. Iowa has seen 127 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Recoveries from the virus stand at 2,121.

Reynolds intends to continue to offer Test Iowa for a full year. She had no exact figure, but said that a “significant” number of Department of Human Services employees will be assigned to contact tracing those who have tested positive. There will be 250 Iowa National Guard members who will also assist with following up on tests.

Testing will continue to be important, Reynolds added. She believes Iowans have the opportunity to “be a partner in their own health”. If you show symptoms, continue to use Test Iowa.

The State will continue to have authority over what may reopen and when, though Reynolds said she is working with local officials to track data and make decisions. If there is a spike in numbers, restrictions previously lifted may be reinstated.

“We hope we don’t have to go there,” she said. “People have to be responsible.”

Dr. Caitlin Pedati, Iowa’s epidemiologist, says she continues to collect and analyze data before any more decisions are made. Additional guidance from IDPH is forthcoming, specifically about traveling among restricted and unrestricted counties.

Reynolds also thanked Dr. Mike Pintella of the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory for all of the work they have put in throughout the pandemic. She said testing has been going on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their work, as well as Iowans’ personal responsibility, should allow the state to eventually return to normal.

“I have confidence in Iowans that they will be part of the solution,” Reynolds said.