The Legislative Council this week announced that the General Assembly will reconvene on June 3. On March 16, the Iowa Legislature suspended its 2020 legislative session to help “bend the curve.” Like everyone, we wanted to help flatten the epidemiological curve of COVID-19 in Iowa to protect our hospital capacity and other health care resources.
Thanks to efforts by Iowans across the state, we bent the curve and protected our health care capacity. Capacity is measured by availability of hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators, and personal protection equipment (“PPE”). As of May 14, Iowa hospitals had over 3,500 in-patient beds available (representing 43.5% of all patient beds in the state), 437 ICU beds available (76.53% of capacity), and 705 ventilators available (75.64% of capacity). The Iowa Hospital Association reported to us this week that Iowa hospitals have been maintaining an average of 21 days’ worth of PPE. For reference, they consider the PPE supply to be critical if their on-hand supply will last 7 days or less.
Unfortunately, Iowans will have to find ways to live with COVID-19 until there are therapeutics or a vaccine. The economic consequences of the necessary business closures instituted by Gov. Reynolds demonstrate the need to find ways to safely live and work in this new normal.
The General Assembly’s goal is to do the work of the people as safely as possible. To that end, we will implement several safety precautions. The Capitol will open to the public on May 18, though without the large tour groups that typically visit during the summer. Once session begins, all staff and visitors will receive a health screening prior to entering the building. Everyone will be encouraged to socially distance themselves from one another, and to wear a facemask when social distancing is not possible. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the building. Senate Committee meetings will take place in the Senate chamber, where Senators can socially distance and events can be livestreamed to the public via the Legislature’s website. Additionally, the Senate and the House of Representatives will limit the number of people who can be on the floor of their respective chamber at any given time.
I strongly encourage Iowans to do their part to fight COVID-19. Stay home if you feel symptoms or are part of a vulnerable population. Do what you can to support small businesses in our community. And, do everything you can to keep yourself and your family safe in these difficult times.