Governor Kim Reynolds has taken the first steps to re-open the state of Iowa. She has heard the voices of her constituents and knows it is time to start. Her intention is to do it in an incremental way in order to restore Iowans’ freedoms safely and responsibly. She is moving forward monitoring the health data and metrics as she goes. She understands the devastating consequences of keeping Iowans out of work and the harm done to our 1st Amendment freedoms and sees it is time to begin the process of re-opening Iowa back up. It is possible for people to get back to their families, churches, jobs, schools, and social lives and to do it in a way that observes health precautions so people are protected. We can do both.
The vast majority of Iowans have largely remained healthy during this unprecedented time. That is something to be thankful for because in the beginning of this pandemic leading health experts were predicting a much higher hospitalization and death rate than we’ve seen. That is why the governor issued the health disaster emergency proclamation closing much of Iowa down, to prevent such a rapid spread that hospitals were overwhelmed. However, since that time, over the past few weeks experts have revised their estimates downward.
Now we are learning COVID-19 is so contagious that experts predict 50 to 70% of the U.S. population will get the virus. However, it is encouraging to note that even though there are more positive cases each day, as time goes on we are seeing that the vast majority, experts now say 80%, of the individuals getting the coronavirus are experiencing mild or no symptoms at all.
Generally, what we are seeing is that the serious cases and deaths are among the elderly, the immune-compromised and those with other underlying health conditions. That is something no one wants to see but, knowing that does help us target medical care and health precautions. In addition, it is encouraging that even many of the serious cases that are hospitalized have recovered or are recovering.
Besides opening up Iowa using an incremental approach, the governor will also be using a regional approach or a county-by-county basis or even drilling down to zip codes. This helps manage “hot spots” in the state while also getting folks back to their normal lives earlier in areas that haven’t been impacted as badly.
Stay tuned for more announcements from our governor to further open up Iowa in the days ahead.
Elective Surgeries can Resume
The governor issued a new proclamation that beginning Monday, April 27th, hospitals and health care providers can resume offering nonessential and elective surgeries and procedures once again, provided that the health care facility is able to comply with certain requirements. These requirements include ensuring that the facility has an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), patients must test negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours of the procedure, and hospitals cannot turn down COVID-19 patients to instead create capacity for elective procedures. Hospitals must also reserve 30% of their ICU and medical/surgical beds for COVID-19 patients.
We know that health care providers have taken a significant financial hit during this time, and the opening up of these procedures will help our local health care providers hire staff back and soon begin resuming normal operations.
Farmers Markets to Open Up
Part of the governor’s new proclamation is that farmers markets can open up. They will be exempt from the mass gatherings limitations that have been expressed in the Governor’s previous proclamations if they meet the following requirements:
- The vendors may only sell farm products or food. Vendors selling other goods shall not be permitted.
- Musical performances, children’s activities, contests, or other entertainment or activities organized by farmers market or vendors are prohibited.
- Farmers markets must eliminate all common seating areas, picnic tables, or dining areas and shall prohibit vendors from having any seating for the public to congregate or eat food on the premises.
- Farmers markets shall space all vendor booths or assigned parking areas so that there is six feet or more of empty space from the edge of one vendor’s assigned areas to the neighboring vendors.
- Farmers markets shall also implement reasonable measures under the circumstances of each market to ensure social distancing of vendors and customers, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 at farmers markets consistent with guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Department of Agricultural and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
A farmers market, festival, or community gathering of 10 or more people that does not comply with these requirements is prohibited. Customers of farmers markets are strongly encouraged to engage in social distancing, wear a mask or other protective face-covering if unable to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others, practice good hygiene, and attend the market alone without other family members.
Governor Kim Reynolds launched the Test Iowa Initiative to expand testing capacity to help control the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa. It will give us a better picture of how widespread the virus is, how it is spreading, and the chances of it becoming a serious illness for individuals.
A similar initiative has already been launched in the state of Utah. Iowa is the second state in the nation to deploy this initiative. Go to www.testIowa.com to complete your own personal health assessment.
The Test Iowa Initiative includes an assessment that was developed in coordination with the Iowa Department of Public Health and it will better inform Iowans of their current health status, whether or not they should get a COVID-19 test, and instructions on how to get tested. The assessment asks about existing symptoms and occupational considerations.
Sites for “drive through” testing are being set up. The first will be at the Iowa Events Center on Saturday. More locations will be added next week. There will be no cost to Iowans being tested. Of course, your primary care provider is also available to ask about testing too.
Self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, nonprofit employees, free lancers, etc: If you have filed an unemployment claim, please disregard the form you receive from IWD on green paper. It is a standard form that is computer generated and has no bearing on the claim. No additional action is necessary at this time. Please continue filing your weekly claim. They are currently working through the backlog that was created in the order in which the claims were received. Once you are approved and the benefits are issued, it will be 4-5 days until you actually see the money.
Voting in the June 2nd Primary
With the COVID-19 pandemic still a concern, Iowans are encouraged to vote by mail in the upcoming June 2nd primary election. Many counties have indicated that they plan to reduce the number of polling locations in an effort to reduce the risk of illness to poll workers.
Many county auditors have already begun sending out absentee ballot request forms to voters. If you are on the voter rolls as an active voter you should receive your form this week. To request your ballot, simply fill out the form and send it back to your County Auditor. You will then receive your official primary election ballot in the mail and can fill it out at home.
County auditors are preparing spaces for in-person absentee voting and at the polls to be as clean and as well-disinfected as possible to protect the public in this pandemic during the voting period. In addition, polling places will be disinfected before and after Election Day. This is to encourage a building to serve as a polling place.
The Secretary of State’s office and county auditors are looking for more Iowans to serve as precinct election officials (PEO’s). They are focused on voters who are under 60 years of age, especially voters aged 17-35. The reason for this is because many, if not most, PEO’s are over 60 years old and they want to keep them from being in public where they could be exposed to COVID-19 as seniors are a vulnerable group. Go to a new website recently launched by the Secretary of State to get more information about serving as a PEO in your area: https://pollworker.iowa.gov/
Keep Updated: For more detailed information and guidance on the coronavirus emergency in Iowa, go to this website: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/
More information on assistance for small business can be found at IowaBusinessRecovery.com.
Gov. Reynolds is holding regular press conferences to keep the public informed on the state’s response. These press conferences are held at 11:00 a.m. Sunday through Friday. You can watch on the Governor’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/IAGovernor/
A status report of monitoring and testing of COVID19 in Iowa is provided by IDPH and can be found here. In addition, a public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431.
Wash hands, social distance, keep praying, stay home (if possible), stay well, stay healthy, stay hopeful!! God will help us! Blessings!