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Governor begins daily COVID-19 updates

Public health officials say not everyone needs to be tested, relief available for those out of work

March 23, 2020
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

NOTE: As of Monday morning, there were 105 cases of COVID-19 in Iowa.

By Amy H. Peterson

Staff Writer

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced Friday she will present a press conference on Facebook Live each day at 2:30 p.m. Reynolds announced Saturday that additional testing revealed 23 additional cases of COVID-19, and Sunday an additional 22, bringing the state total to 90. The spread of the virus has moved closer to Emmet County with cases identified in Kossuth, Sioux, Woodbury and Cerro Gordo Counties.

The Iowa Hygienic Lab has also logged 1,215 negative cases as of Sunday.

Governor Reynolds ordered these types of businesses to close by 10 p.m. Sunday: hair and nail salons, massage parlors, tattoo shops, tanning salons and swimming pools. Those closures will go through March 31. Governor Reynolds said she is asking schools, churches and community centers that have space to provide child care during the pandemic.

Iowa Department of Public Health director Dr. Caitlin Pedati said there are likely additional cases in the state; as of Friday, the state had 620 test kits; Pedati said this number is ever-changing based on the number of individuals tested and the number of kits arriving. With the Iowa Hygienic Laboratory working three shifts, the daily capacity for testing is 162 kits. Private labs are also able to run tests.

"We will track Iowa's results regardless of where tests are being done," Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of Iowa Department of Public Health, said.

When asked why the Department was not advocating widespread testing at this time, Dr. Pedati said, "Eighty percent of people will experience a mild illness. For those people, we recommend what we'd recommend for any virus: stay home and recover, take in fluids, get plenty of rest, wash your hands, cover cough, stay away from others. For the majority of people, we tell you to stay home and recover, and it will take care of itself."

Dr. Pedati said, "We do a test because we are going to take action or do something different with the information from what we're currently doing. That's true of COVID-19 or anything else. We test if it will help doctors understand how to care for patients. We wouldn't want everyone to be tested. We need to make thoughtful use of healthcare resources."

A subset of people who more likely would need to be tested if they have symptoms or have been exposed to someone who is ill: healthcare and emergency services workers, people with underlying illnesses that make them more susceptible to severe symptoms, people who are over 60, people who live in assisted living centers, nursing homes, dormitories, or other communal living situations, and hospitalized patients with respiratory illness and/or fever. Dr. Pedati said since there is not yet a medication or vaccine to treat COVID-19, a test will not change the treatment plan for most people.

Local retailers who spoke to the Estherville News said it would help greatly if shoppers would place an emphasis on social distancing in their stores, try to have only one person shopping for the household, make use of curbside services where available, and use the sanitizer wipes on their carts to help keep employees and customers safe.

Governor Reynolds said, "Our everyday routines need to change to protect other people. These are some of the toughest decisions I have made as GovernorEvery Iowan is part of the solution. Iowans understand we're in this together. I don't know what is in store for us in the days ahead, but no one is better prepared to face this together than Iowans."

Governor Reynolds also said a full lockdown, or sheltering in place is not on the table for Iowa at this time.

"We are working very hard to lessen the financial impact on those who have been laid off or have work reduction due to COVID-19, or those who have to stay home to care for family members or children due to illness or school and daycare closures," the governor said.

The governor also issued proclamations to help individual Iowans and small businesses during the period of social distancing during the COVID-19 mitigation. These include suspending penalties and interest in the collection of property taxes, suspending eviction actions on tenants, allowing restaurants who depend on alcohol sales to offer unopened bottles and cans for carryout and delivery orders, and easing regulations on various industries to make it easier for ag supplies, food, medical equipment to be transported to where they are needed.

"We anticipate making refinements to all of these changes. We're open to hearing from people in the industries. Are there regulatory issues we could relax that would help you do business?" the governor said.

Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development, said Iowans who are laid off due to the COVID-19 mitigation, along with those who have already applied for, or are receiving unemployment, will have several requirements waived due to the difficulty of applying for work due to closures and the mitigation.

Work search requirements, and the requirement to list oneself as available for immediate work are waived. Fact-finding interviews are also waived. IWD is offering webinars in English and Spanish on its website under a special COVID tab.

"We are doing our best to make sure workers receive payments within 7-10 business days of applying for unemployment," Townsend said.

IWD has transferred 162 workers who normally work in other areas to take calls starting Monday, which will allow claim processor to focus on timely processing of claims.

Townsend said most IWD business can be conducted over the phone through the local offices.

In a release Saturday, the Iowa Department of Public Safety announced a temporary extension of weapons permits. A proclamation from the governor extends the expiration date for professional and nonprofessional permits to carry firearms and permits to acquire pistols or revolvers. The extension does not allow one to use an otherwise expired permit to purchase a firearm without completion of a NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) check at the time of the purchase or transfer. All Federal Firearms License holders (FFLS) must conduct a NICS check prior to the sale or transfer of any firearm if an expired permit is presented.

The declaration also gives county sheriffs greater discretion in determining how they receive weapon permit applications so as to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Governor Reynolds said, "To those families returning home from Spring break trips this week, we need your help to slow the spread. Look on the Iowa Department of Health website to see if you have traveled to infected areas. Follow the guidelines to self-isolate for 14 days. Don't hesitate to call; they will walk you through the recommendations. Call in to your employers. Many have new travel and work from home policies that may have been implemented while you were gone. And if you know someone who's traveling, please help us to get the word out to them, too."



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