At her morning press conference today, Gov. Kim Reynolds laid out the path Iowa will take to reopen its economy.
The reason for doing it now, she said, is that the mitigation strategies previously in place aren’t sustainable, so the state’s approach must change.
“The reality is that we cannot stop this virus. It will remain in our communities until a vaccine is available,” Reynolds said. “Instead we must learn to live with coronavirus activity without letting it govern our lives.”
The mitigation efforts have included closing non-essential businesses like restaurants, salons, stores and fitness centers across the state. It also involved restricting social gatherings to 10 people or less and closing locations like campgrounds and playgrounds.
Many of those orders happened in mid-to-late March, and so have been in place for about a month. In that time, testing revealed where the virus was and 82 counties reported positive cases.
Now, the total stands at 5,868 cases and individual outbreaks continue to pop up across the state, particularly in manufacturing centers, meatpacking plants and long-term care facilities.
Though the increase can be attributed in part to increased testing, it doesn’t explain all the new cases. Several counties, like Woodbury and Black Hawk, have experienced rapid outbreaks, putting them at the top of national daily growth increases, in the past week.
Reynolds said the state is pivoting to an approach that handles those outbreaks as they occur.
“We must gradually shift from an aggressive mitigation strategy to focusing on containing and managing virus activity for the long term in a way that allows us to safely and responsibly balance the health of our people and the health of our economy,” Reynolds said.
For now, 77 counties will be allowed to start reopening, starting May 1. For them, restaurants, retail stores, closed malls and fitness centers can resume operation at 50 percent of the business’s capacity. She’s also lifting the ban on religious gatherings with more than 10 people.
Other closures have been extended through May 15.
Reynolds said those 77 counties have showed a downward trend in coronavirus cases over the past 14 days or never had any cases in the first place. Businesses in the counties where cases have surged over the past week — Black Hawk, Polk, Linn and Woodbury, to name a few — will remain closed.
The counties exempt from the loosening of restrictions, those that have had increasing virus spread in recent weeks, are: Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Dallas, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fayette, Henry, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Louisa, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Tama, Washington, and Woodbury County.
Several reporters at the briefing asked questions about managing travel from the closed counties to those that are reopening, for example, people in Polk County driving up to Ames in Story County.
Reynolds said there are no specific travel restrictions and she encouraged people from the closed areas to practice personal responsibility.
According to a national model, Iowa is still projected to have its peak in daily deaths on May 5, about a week from now. Since early April, officials at the Iowa Department of Public Health have said Iowa’s peak was one or two weeks away.
by Nikoel Hytrek
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