I am contacted daily with questions like, “When can I get a haircut?” “When can we start practicing softball?” “How will this pandemic affect the economy?” The true impact of this pandemic will likely take months to fully determine, but as we enter the recovery phase, we must continue to be vigilant in our efforts to mitigate the virus so that the curve remains “flat.” That remains critical in order to reboot the Iowa economy and get back on track.
Almost two months ago, the governor issued the first emergency proclamation limiting social gatherings and closing facilities such as restaurants, gyms, and casinos. Schools were closed for the remainder of the school year, and workplaces were encouraged to have their employees work from home when possible. The point of these measures was to limit the number of places people could congregate close together in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus in our state. In slowing the spread of the virus, the health care system would not be overwhelmed and it would ensure resources would be available for those people who needed care.
That goal has largely been met. Hospitals have enough beds and ventilators for those who need them, and the state continues to place restrictions in counties with a high number of cases and for those Iowans most at risk. In fact, some health care professionals have been furloughed because of the lack of use of health care facilities in Iowa.
Now, as the state expands testing and monitors the data, we can reopen our state, step-by-step, in a safe and responsible way. Individuals will continue to test positive for the coronavirus, but the capacity of our health care system is strong. As the state reopens, public and private facilities will still need to take the proper precautions and follow guidelines, like continuing to use social distancing and limiting capacity.
Last week, Governor Reynolds took the first step in reopening our state, allowing places like restaurants to open at half capacity in counties with decreasing or limited virus activity. On May 6 the governor signed a new proclamation with additional openings for some Iowa businesses and facilities and additional regulatory relief. Just like the last proclamation, these businesses will only be allowed to reopen if they can follow appropriate public health measures.
Starting May 8 and continuing until May 15, dental services in Iowa can resume if they follow the guidelines and have enough necessary protective equipment. The proclamation also reopens campgrounds, drive-in movie theaters, tanning facilities, and medical spas. As mentioned before, all these establishments must follow public health guidelines, adhere to social distancing, and use increased hygiene practices. Retail establishments and malls can open at half capacity, again, if they can follow guidelines and implement reasonable measures to keep the public and employees safe.
The governor made some adjustments to education standards as well. Iowa schools may start the next school before August 23, but only if that time exceeds 180 school days, or 1,080 hours for the school year. Some of the regulatory relief in this proclamation include suspending the requirement for face-to-face contact between children and licensed practitioners giving private instruction, suspending the requirement for face-to-face contact between children and private home school assistance program teachers, and suspending scholarship rules for interscholastic athletes.
As Iowa begins to emerge from this pandemic, it remains important to make responsible decisions for ourselves and our families. Continuing to practice social distancing, limiting trips to busy places like the grocery store, and frequently washing hands are still best practices at this time.