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As we continue on through this uncertain time with COVID-19, I receive a lot of questions. I am always happy to help sort through those issues on a case-by-case basis, but thought it might be helpful to include an update with the most frequently asked questions.

What is the difference between other states declaring “Shelter in Place” and what Iowa is doing?

Governor Reynolds tweeted earlier this week that she and Governor Rickets (of Nebraska) spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci over the phone to discuss “shelter-in-place”. The Governor said the phone call was productive and Dr. Fauci was “100% supportive, saying that Iowa and Nebraska are ‘on the same page’ with guidance he’s providing other states.”

Transcript of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s comments from Monday’s Coronavirus Task Force press conference: “I had good conversations with the Governor of Nebraska and the Governor of Iowa. It’s interesting that functionally even though they have not given a strict stay-at-home order, what they are doing, is really functionally equivalent to that. We had a really good conversation with both of the Governors. When I had mentioned that, I think there was a public response that they weren’t really doing anything at all and they really are doing a very good job, both of them. Those were the only two that I spoke to but it was a really good conversation and I want to make sure people understand that just because they don’t have a very strict stay-at-home order, they have in place a lot of things that are totally compatible with what everyone else is doing.”

Governor Reynolds has faced pressure to issue a “shelter-in-place” order. She has resisted such efforts so far, stating that Iowa is already doing the same things, sometimes more, than what other states with formal orders are doing. Below are a few examples of where this is happening:


Governor Tim Walz formally issued a “shelter-in-place” order on March 25. Shortly before issuing his executive order, Gov. Walz required non-essential businesses to close. About 78% of Minnesota’s workforce is exempted from this order due to working in essential industries. According to Governor Reynolds, 80-81% of Iowa’s workforce is considered essential.


Governor J.B. Pritzker formally issued a “shelter-in-place” order on March 20. The Illinois Department of Public Health has recommended, but not required, that elective surgeries be canceled. Governor Reynolds required all non-essential medical and dental procedures to be canceled on March 26.


Governor Doug Ducey formally issued a “shelter-in-place” order on March 30. On April 3, Gov. Ducey required all barbershops, beauty and nail salons, spas, tattoo parlors, and public pools to close effective April 4. Governor Reynolds required these establishments to close on March 22.

What businesses must close pursuant to the Governor’s Proclamations?

  • Restaurants and bars;
  • Fitness centers, health clubs, health spas, gyms, and aquatic centers;
  • Swimming pools and spas, wading pools, water slides, wave pools, spray pads, and bath houses;
  • Salons, including all establishments providing the services of cosmetology, electrology, esthetics, nail technology, manicuring, and pedicuring;
  • Medical spas;
  • Barbershops;
  • Tattoo establishments;
  • Tanning facilities;
  • Massage therapy establishments;
  • Theaters at which live performances or motion pictures are shown;
  • Casinos and other facilities conducting pari-mutuel wagering or gaming operations;
  • Bookstores;
  • Clothing stores;
  • Shoe stores;
  • Jewelry stores;
  • Luggage stores;
  • Cosmetic, beauty, or perfume stores;
  • Florists;
  • Furniture and home furnishing stores;
  • Senior citizen centers and adult daycare facilities;
  • Tobacco, cigarette, cigar, or vaping stores;
  • Enclosed malls, including interior common areas and any retail establishment that only accessible to the public from the interior common areas;
  • Social and fraternal clubs, including but not limited to American Legion or VFW posts, elk clubs, country clubs, and golf course clubhouses;
  • Bingo halls, bowling alleys, pool halls, arcades, and amusement parks;
  • Museums, aquariums, and zoos;
  • Race tracks and speedways;
  • Indoor or outdoor roller or ice skating rinks and skate parks;
  • Outdoor or indoor playgrounds or children’s play centers, not including playgrounds in private residences or childcare facilities;
  • Public and private campgrounds; and
  • Door-to-door sales.

*This closure order does not affect other retail establishments, such as discount stores, grocery stores, or pharmacies that sell these goods in addition to other essential food, medical supplies, and household goods.

What mass gatherings are prohibited pursuant to the Governor’s Proclamations? 

Social, community, spiritual, religious, recreational, leisure, and sporting gatherings and events of more than 10 people, including but not limited to parades, festivals, conventions, and fundraisers.

Auctions with more than 10 people present in person, except for livestock auctions that only include food animals, which may operate so long as there are no more than 25 people present in person.

May closed retail businesses continue to operate through online sales, orders for pickup or delivery, or curbside service? 

Yes. Subject to any other applicable regulations to their industry, retail establishments may continue to serve customers through phone or online sales, delivery, or curbside pickup.

How does a person determine whether a business falls into one of the listed closed categories? 

A business listed above must close if its primary purpose is to provide a service or sell the goods listed in the Proclamation. If a business sells goods outside the scope of the Proclamation, but only nominally or incidentally, the business must close. For example, the mere fact that a clothing store offers snack foods at the checkout counter does not excuse its need to close, because the store’s primary purpose is the sale of clothing.

What if a business is not listed in the Proclamation? 

All businesses not listed in the Governor’s current or previous proclamations may remain open. The Governor determined that the closure of the specified businesses was only necessary at this time. Many businesses, however, are electing to close on their own and it may be wise to contact a business in advance to determine if it is open.

What if a business was not ordered to close, but sells some goods listed in the Proclamation such as books or shoes? 

The Governor’s Proclamation does not affect retail establishments, such as discount stores, grocery stores, or pharmacies that sell goods listed in the Proclamation in addition to other essential food, medical supplies, or household goods. For example, a grocery store that has a floral department may continue to operate without restriction, but a free standing florist shop must close during the time the Proclamation is in effect. Operating one of the enumerated businesses and incidentally selling food or health care supplies does not change the primary purpose of that business. For example, a jewelry store that also sells chocolates must close, as well as a shoe store that sells non-prescription orthotics.

May campgrounds remain open for long-term or permanent tenants who reside at the campground or in order to serve essential employees who wish to self-isolate from family members? 

Yes. Campgrounds shall be closed to temporary recreational use. The use of the terms “temporary” and “recreational” were intentional as it was not designed to prevent people who reside or serve as campground hosts for the entire summer from having to leave the functional equivalent of their home or to prevent medical professionals or first responders from using campgrounds to self-isolate so as to protect their families. But individuals must reside at the campground; campgrounds must remain closed to individuals who stay at the campground only for a weekend or other short-term stays for recreational purposes, even if they have a season-long lease.

What is the penalty for violating any of these closure or mass gathering orders? 

Any person who knowingly violates these public health orders or a lawful order of an officer is guilty of a simple misdemeanor under section 135.38 of the Iowa Code.

What dedicated resources are law enforcement agencies expected to utilize in enforcing the Governor’s Emergency Proclamations? 

Each agency will need to evaluate the scope and nature of any concerns that may arise in their jurisdiction. But it is anticipated that any complaints or observations could likely be addressed during the course of existing patrol duties.

Do we know the current number of hospitalizations in the State vs capacity (ALL patients, not just covid-19 POSITIVE)?

Yes, we monitor hospital capacity and available beds. This helps inform our regional efforts to ensure that if patient transfers would be needed, we have the information we need to assist in that work. Currently we have about 9,400 staffed beds with a capacity at Iowa hospitals of about 12,000 beds if staffing is available. We will continue to monitor this number daily and hospitals are required to report this information to IDPH.

How long are the businesses categories listed in the Governor’s proclamation closed?

The Governor’s proclamation states that the specifically listed business groups/categories of establishments shall be closed until 11:59 pm on April 30, 2020. The proclamation does not prevent those businesses from offering curbside pickup, delivery, or online ordering options for customers. The physical business must remain closed to public entry. If a business can modify procedures to allow curbside pickup, delivery, or online ordering options, then they can continue to operate in that manner.

Businesses should take active steps to protect their employees and customers, including: Conduct a daily health screening of any employees interacting with the public through delivery or curbside pickup. Use the screening tool here:  https://idph.iowa.gov/Portals/1/userfiles/7/bscreening%20algorithm%2003222020.pdf

  • Opt for cashless payment options
  • Wash hands between every transaction whether curbside or home delivery
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on a regular basis

What resources are available for people seeking help to cope with the stress?

Iowa Concern is a resource available for Iowans looking to cope with the stress of COVID-19. Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge. Iowa Concern provides access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. Language interpretation services are available. Available resources include:

Human Sciences Extension and Outreach’s “Finding Answers Now ” website for additional information and resources on dealing with stress.

Author: Megan Jones