Reynolds Unclear How To Scale Back Reopening If Virus Surges Again

By Elizabeth Meyer

May 20, 2020

As Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds moves to open more businesses previously shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, questions from reporters were not answered directly on what would need to happen in order for her to reinstate closures.

During her Wednesday morning press conference, Reynolds said movie theaters, zoos, aquariums, museums and wedding venues can reopen Friday so long as they follow social distancing guidelines and implement “appropriate public health measures.” Swimming pools also can open for laps and lessons. On May 28, bars and other establishments that sell alcohol can serve customers at 50% capacity. And on June 1, schools can resume some activities, including high school baseball and softball.

Today’s announcement comes on top of recent news that retail establishments, hair salons and restaurants can reopen statewide.

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When a Des Moines Register reporter asked the governor to define the threshold for when she would consider “dialing the restrictions back up,” Reynolds said state data allow public health officials to monitor coronavirus activity “down to the zip code.”

“We can start to see if there’s a spike or maybe a cluster that we need to get some more information on,” Reynolds said.

The Test Iowa initiative, Reynolds said, “gives us some insight into where we might see some potential spikes or potential cluster of increased virus activity. That really informs us to where we need to move our Test Iowa sites and our strike teams.”

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Ramping up contact tracing — a public health measure used to identify and isolate people who have come in contact with an infected individual — is key to local and state efforts to contain the virus, she said.

Following up on the Register’s question, reporter Caroline Cummings asked: “Is there any point that you would consider closing businesses again or is that entirely off the table?”

“No, I’m not saying that at all,” Reynolds said. “But I think there’s other things that we can put in place that really allows us to manage and control virus activity across the state. It’s about educating. It’s about getting in front of it. It’s about understanding the scope of the virus activity through the case investigation, and so those are all things that we can take a look at.”

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Though she did not specify the change in virus activity that could result in closing businesses again, Reynolds said coronavirus-related hospitalizations are closely monitored to ensure health care systems are not overwhelmed with patients.

“We’re not seeing that at all,” Reynolds said of a “surge” in hospitalizations. “We’ll continue to monitor that, and if we feel that there potentially could be a surge that would impact not only our communities and Iowans but our hospital system and their ability to take care of COVID patients, as well as other Iowans who need to utilize the hospital, then we will make accommodations accordingly.”

As of 12:50 p.m. Wednesday, 15,534 Iowans have tested positive for COVID-19 and 385 people have died.


By Elizabeth Meyer
Posted 5/20/20

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