As the coronavirus pandemic reshapes Iowa life and politics, we at Starting Line have decided to create a timeline tracker of how the crisis is playing out in our state. It will include updates on new confirmed cases, how state government is reacting and planning, what major Iowa politicians are saying about the pandemic, and more.
This timeline will be in reverse order, with the most recent days at top. We’ll try to update it as much as possible as new information becomes available.
This page will be pinned to our website’s main menu.
The Iowa Department of Public Health began putting out a map of impacted counties. We’ve started taking screenshots of those for each day, starting on Mar. 22.
Sunday, April 5
Total Iowa Cases: 868
Iowa reported eight additional deaths today in Appanoose (81+ years old); Johnson (61-80); Polk (61-80), (61-80), (81+); Linn (81+); Scott (81+); and Washington (61-80) counties. Twenty-two deaths in the state have occurred due to COVID-19.
Newly-impacted counties are: Clarke and Hamilton.
IDPH says more than 10% of all positive cases in the state are occurring among long-term care staff and residents, and more than 40% of deaths are associated with outbreaks at long-term care facilities.
Saturday, April 4
Total Iowa Cases: 786
Eighty-seven new cases of COVID-19 were reported today, including deaths in Linn (61-80 years old); Polk (61-80); and Henry (41-60) counties. The statewide death toll is up to 14.
Newly-impacted counties are: Lee, Mills, Howard and Grundy.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, 9,454 tests reported by the State Hygienic Lab and others have been negative.
Friday, April 3
Total Iowa Cases: 699
Eighty-five new cases of COVID-19 were reported today, but no additional deaths.
Newly-impacted counties are: Lyon, Plymouth and Louisa.
During her daily press conference, Gov. Reynolds clarified the legal implication of violating her order to limit public gatherings to 10 people or less, stating it is a simple misdemeanor, which can be punished by a fine and/or jail time.
Also today, the Iowa Board of Medicine voted unanimously in support of a statewide stay-at-home order.
Thursday, April 2
Total Iowa Cases: 614
Two additional deaths due to COVID-19 were announced today, both individuals (61-80 years old) in Linn County, bringing the statewide death toll to at least 11.
Newly-impacted counties are: Bremer, Jefferson and Delaware.
Iowa Workforce Development announced 55,963 Iowans filed for unemployment between March 22-28, the largest one-week spike in state history. Between March 15-21, 40,952 Iowans filed for unemployment.
Gov. Reynolds extended her order to close non-essential businesses (fitness centers, theaters, casinos, senior citizen centers, swimming pools, salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, tanning facilities and many types of retail stores, including clothes, books and jewelry); limit restaurants and bars to carry-out and delivery orders only; halt non-essential surgeries and dental procedures; and limit social gatherings to 10 people or less; through the end of April.
The recommendation to close K-12 schools also extends through April 30, and the Iowa legislative session will remain suspended.
Reynolds’ initial State of Public Health Disaster Emergency declaration, issued March 17, expired March 31. The declaration was extended once before, March 26-April 17, to include new mitigation efforts.
On Thursday morning, Democratic leaders in the Iowa House and Senate called on Reynolds to issue a “statewide shelter-in-place order.”
Iowa currently is one of only five states that has not issued a regional or statewide stay-at-home order.
“A statewide shelter-in-place sends a clearer message about the serious nature of this pandemic,” the letter, signed by Sen. Janet Petersen and Rep. Todd Prichard, states. “The current patchwork of recommendations is confusing, raising more questions than answers about what Iowans should be doing to help save lives.”
Wednesday, April 1
Total Iowa Cases: 549
Polk County reported its first death today caused by COVID-19 and Washington County reported its second, bringing the statewide death toll to nine. Both deaths were adults 81 or older. Between the State Hygienic Lab and others, 7,304 tests have come back negative. Fifty-two additional cases were announced today, for a total of 549 positive cases since March 8.
Newly-impacted counties are: Madison, O’Brien and Mitchell.
Though Gov. Reynolds has encouraged social distancing and minimal public activity since the coronavirus took hold in Iowa, at today’s press conference her typical guidance to “stay home when you’re sick” became “essential errands only. Go out as little as possible, make sure that you’re going for groceries or medical — limit trips out and do them one at a time.”
When asked about the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model, which the federal government is now using to help predict surges of coronavirus cases and the number of nationwide deaths, the deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health pointed out the model “does not take into account” non-essential business closures that were implemented or school closings.
Tuesday, March 31
Total Iowa Cases: 497
There were 73 new cases of COVID-19 in Iowa announced today, bringing the statewide total up to 497. One more person has died from the illness a man in the 41-60 age range in Muscatine County. 19 of the new cases are located in Linn County, where Heritage Specialty Care nursing home currently has 30 cases. Linn County now leads the state in cases by a decent margin.
Monday, March 30
Total Iowa Cases: 424
Iowa saw another large jump in cases today, with 88 new confirmed cases bringing the statewide total up to 424. Two new deaths were reported as well, both from older adults (81+), one in Linn County and one in Washington County. 51 people are currently hospitalized.
Newly-impacted counties are: Crawford, Audubon, Guthrie, Jones, Jackson and Van Buren.
Polk County also continues to see a steep rise in cases, with 61 total now.
Linn County now has the most cases in the state, with 71. Gov. Reynolds announced today that there is an outbreak in a longterm care facility in Cedar Rapids, accounting for 21 of Linn County’s 71 cases.
“The reality is that the end is not yet in sight,” Reynolds said at today’s press conference.
Reynolds also said today that the state will be getting this week at least 15 mobile testing units that can deliver results on COVID-19 tests within minutes.
3rd District Congresswoman Cindy Axne sent a letter to Reynolds asking her to issue a “stay-at-home” order in Iowa, as 1st District Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer did last week.
“If the state’s public health experts are predicting an imminent spike already,” Axne wrote, “why then would we not consider a step that would keep all but the most essential workers at home to avoid deepening these shortages (of personal protective equipment) over the next month?”
The U.S. House and Senate determine they will not reconvene for votes in Washington, D.C., until at least April 20.
Sunday, March 29
Total Iowa Cases: 336
Iowa announced 38 new positive COVID-19 cases today, bringing the statewide total up to 336. There is an additional death in Linn County, an adult in the 61-80 age range. Polk County saw a sizable jump with ten new cases. There does not appear to be any newly-impacted counties on the map today.
Overall, there have been 5,013 negative tests by the state lab and private labs in Iowa.
At the governor’s press conference today, the deputy director of IDPH said current projections show Iowa hitting its peak of cases in two to three weeks, but emphasized that numbers are constantly changing.
Saturday, March 28
Total Iowa Cases: 298
There were 64 new cases in Iowa reported this morning (if you’re wondering why the total numbers don’t add up from yesterday, it’s because one previous COVID-19 case in Black Hawk County is not a person from Iowa). Counties with their first positive cases are: Keokuk, Taylor, Shelby, Boone.
Friday, March 27
Total Iowa Cases: 235
Iowa saw its largest jump in cases by far today, with 56 new positive COVID-19 results taking the state total up to 235 total. 46 of Iowa’s 99 counties are now impacted, with the following counties seeing their first positive case today: Clinton, Butler, Hardin, Wright, Webster, Dickinson, Marshall, Iowa, Montgomery.
Two additional deaths from COVID-19 were also reported by the Governor. One was an elderly (81+) adult in Poweshiek County, the other was older adult (60-80) in Allamakee County.
Rep. Abby Finkenauer publicly called on Gov. Kim Reynolds to issue a “stay-at-home” order statewide in Iowa. All three of Iowa’s deaths so far have occurred in Finkenauer’s 1st District. Finkenauer was in D.C. today to vote in favor of the federal Phase 3 coronavirus relief package. She briefly spoke on the House floor:
We just passed the CARES Act sending relief to our hospitals, frontline workers, and working families across the country. Here are my remarks on the House floor before our vote. #IA01 pic.twitter.com/6HExiOB75J
— Abby Finkenauer (@RepFinkenauer) March 27, 2020
Gov. Reynolds said President Trump’s suggestion that governors rank the risk of each county is “not my priority right now.” She also once again said that a shelter-in-place order may disrupt the supply chain for health care facilities.
“I believe that Iowans don’t need an order to do the right thing,” Reynolds said of her continued reluctance to issue such an order.
Thursday, March 26
Total Iowa Cases: 179
Iowa saw its largest one-day jump yet in COVID-19 cases: 34. New counties impacted are Monona, Page, Des Moines, Appanoose, Mahaska and Clayton.
New reports showed that 41,890 Iowans applied for unemployment insurance last week, a massive — if expected — jump over the 2,489 in the week previous.
Reynolds announced at her press conference that she was ordering that many forms of retail shops, including book stores, furniture stores, clothing and jewelry stores, among others, must close tonight. The state will also forbid all elective and non-essential surgeries and medical procedures through the duration of the crisis. Health insurance companies must also charge the same for telehealth visits as in-person visits. And all existing closures to bars and restaurants would be extended another week, through April 7.
A Starting Line reader sent in this graph they made off the data in this timeline to show Iowa’s increase in COVID-19 cases, now hitting exponential growth:
Wednesday, March 25
Total Iowa Cases: 145
There were 21 new cases of COVID-19 in Iowa announced this morning. Benton County receives its first confirmed cases.
Minnesota issues a stay-at-home order. That makes three of Iowa’s neighbor states — Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois — taking such action.
Reynolds again encourages those who can stay home to do so, but insists that, based on the data that Iowa is seeing, the state does not require a mandated shut-down yet. She also voices concern about harming the supply chain of goods needed for hospitals if a full shelter-at-home order is made.
Iowa has 280 ventilators not currently in use, with more requested from the federal government. The state currently has the capacity for 1,270 tests through the state lab, along with an unspecified amount through private testers.
Tonight the U.S. Senate passed its “phase three” coronavirus response bill on a 96-0 vote. The $2 trillion bill includes one-time direct payments to American adults and their children; small business loans; aid for states and local governments; and an expansion of unemployment insurance, among other provisions. The legislation now moves to the House, which is expected to convene Friday for a vote.
Tuesday, March 24
Total Iowa Cases: 124
Tonight the Iowa Department of Public Health announced the first death of an Iowan due to COVID-19. The individual was between 61 and 80 years old and lived in Dubuque County.
The day began with 19 more positive cases. Warren, Jasper, Buchanan and Cedar counties are now impacted.
Reynolds says that 18 Iowans have been hospitalized with complications from coronavirus, with one being released last night. Asked about President Trump’s desire to quickly remove business and personal travel restrictions, Reynolds said, “I’m not prepared at this time to say a date, because all along, the decisions are so fluid.”
In Cedar Rapids, two employees at a nursing home there have tested positive for COVID-19.
In Kossuth County, a 38-year-old woman told media her COVID-19 infection was serious enough that she had to go on a ventilator.
In Dubuque, a man continued going into his workplace while he waited a week on his COVID-19 test. He thought he simply had flu symptoms, but ended up testing positive for the coronavirus.
Today, Wisconsin implemented a statewide stay-at-home order, to run through April 24. Reynolds and health leaders said they didn’t believe the data of infections in Iowa shows the state needs to do that.
“It’s important to understand that sheltering in place for two or three weeks will not cause the coronavirus to go away,” the deputy public health director said at the press conference.
Monday, March 23
Total Iowa Cases: 105
With 15 new positive cases reported in the morning, Hancock and Wapello counties are added to the map.
Today in her press conference, Reynolds was much more explicit at encouraging everyone who could stay home to do so, not just those who feel ill in some way. It was not a shelter-at-home mandate, though. She also announced new disaster assistance to small businesses in the forms of grants and short-term loans to get businesses through the current time until federal assistance started flowing.
Reynolds noted they’ve seen a 47% drop in non-commercial traffic on roads throughout the state, which she felt was a good sign that the warnings about the coronavirus was sinking in.
A new poll came out today that was conducted between March 16 and 17, showing that 47% of Iowans were “very concerned” and 38% were “somewhat concerned” about the pandemic.
During his press conference, President Trump called out several states for praise in the country’s interior with lower infection rates, including Iowa.
Sunday, March 22
Total Iowa Cases: 90
The state total has climbed to 90 positive cases, now involving Cerro Gordo, Kossuth, Sioux, Tama and Woodbury counties. 24 of Iowa’s 99 counties have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Effective 10 p.m. tonight through March 31, a new executive order from Gov. Reynolds states all salons, barber shops, medical spas, massage therapists, tattoo shops and swimming pools must close.
Also today, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, tested positive for COVID-19. He is the first senator to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Two members of the House of Representatives have tested positive: Reps. Ben McAdams of Utah and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida. Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office said that Grassley was not close to Paul at a GOP luncheon earlier in the day. Sen. Joni Ernst was also at the lunch, but has not had direct contact with Paul in the past week; Ernst has not been tested herself.
Johnson County mayors ask all residents to stay at home.
Saturday, March 21
Total Iowa Cases: 68
The largest spike to date in COVID-19 cases came today with Reynolds’ announcement of 23 additional positive cases, bringing the state total to 68. Fayette, Henry, Linn, and Story counties are now affected.
Friday, March 20
Total Iowa Cases: 45
Gov. Kim Reynolds announces she will hold a daily press conference at 2:30 starting Monday to update Iowans on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Up-to-date unemployment figures are expected to be released next week, taking into account the vast number of people who are now out of work due to the coronavirus. Today an additional positive case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Allamakee County, bringing the state total to 45.
Neighboring Illinois has ordered a stay-at-home directive, but Reynolds says she’s not considering that right now for Iowa.
Nationwide Insurance, which has a large downtown Des Moines campus, reports one of their employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Reynolds also approves bars to do carry-out orders of alcohol.
Thursday, March 19
Total Iowa Cases: 44
During a press conference — the first to institute social distancing practices for state workers and the press — Reynolds says there are now 44 positive cases of COVID-19 in Iowa. 13 counties are affected, with cases now detected in Muscatine and Dubuque counties, in addition to Winnkeshiek, Allamakee, Black Hawk, Johnson, Washington, Polk, Dallas, Adair, Carroll, Harrison and Pottawattamie counties.
The governor’s office says the state has the ability to test 800 people through the State Hygienic Laboratory. The number of available tests changes daily. Private companies are providing tests as well, but they only get sent to the state lab if the patient fits the specific state criteria.
“I think it’s important to keep in mind that not everybody does need to be tested,” State Medical Director and epidemiologist Caitlin Pedati says at the press conference, “and in fact, many of us probably will never need to be tested. That’s in part because most of us, about 80%, would experience only a very mild kind of illness, similar to a cold or flu-type illness.”
Reynolds does not intend to recommend Iowans “shelter in place,” as California and New York have done to limit residents’ time at non-essential public places.
The state extends filing deadlines for many forms of taxes.
The Principal Building, downtown Des Moines’ largest office building, will close 20 floors for a “deep clean” after a visitor tests positive COVID-19.
Wednesday, March 18
Total Iowa Cases: 38
The governor announces nine new cases of COVID-19, with Iowans in Washington and Winneshiek counties now affected. It’s the biggest one-day jump so far. The state total is 38.
Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley are among the 90 senators who vote in favor of the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act.” It is the second piece of legislation signed by President Trump to combat the coronavirus. Both Ernst and Grassley vote for an amendment that would have taken the paid sick leave out of the version of the bill that House Democrats passed.
Also today, Grassley takes to Twitter to question why it’s inappropriate to refer to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”
The Iowa Statehouse is now closed to all visitors.
Fareway and Hy-Vee grocery stores adjust their hours to allow for more cleaning and resupply in the evenings.
Tuesday, March 17
Total Iowa Cases: 27
Reynolds signs Senate File 2408 into law, initiating the release of additional funds for Medicaid, other health programs and the state hygienic laboratory. The bill also gives Reynolds the authority to waive the required days students must be in school so buildings can remain closed as long as needed.
At 10:15 a.m., Reynolds issued a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency proclamation. The key takeaways here are that restaurants and bars are prohibited from serving dine-in customers. They only can serve food and drinks through carry-out or delivery. Fitness centers, theaters, casinos and senior citizen centers also must be closed to the public. The governor’s order limits public gatherings to no more than 10 people.
News of the order quickly spreads around the state as bars and restaurants shutter on St. Patrick’s Day.
By the end of the day, six new cases are confirmed, now involving Adair and Black Hawk counties. The state total is 29.
Monday, March 16
Total Iowa Cases: 23
The Iowa Legislature convenes for one last time before suspending session for at least 30 days. Two tents are set up outside the Capitol by IDPH to give medical screenings to all those looking to enter the building. Tours of the Statehouse have been shut down.
Lawmakers work late into the evening to pass an emergency appropriations bill to respond to and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
At a press conference, Reynolds announces a new positive case in Dallas County. The state total is 23. Today she also informed the public how Iowa Workforce Development will assist workers and employers impacted by layoffs related to COVID-19. A second shift is added to the state lab, allowing Iowa to run 108 COVID-19 tests a day.
President Trump changed his tone today about the seriousness of the pandemic, rolling out his “15 Days To Slow The Spread” guidance, including limiting public gatherings to no more than 10 people.
Sunday, March 15
Total Iowa Cases: 22
At 8:08 p.m. on Sunday, Reynolds recommends, but does not mandate, schools close for four weeks. The announcement comes in light of “community spread” in the state, with four more positive cases determined, three of which could not be traced to a travel-related risk or known exposure to someone infected with the coronavirus. Polk and Allamakee counties report their first positive cases. The state total is 22.
Rep. Abby Finkenauer sends a letter to Reynolds requesting more clarity from the state on their planned actions to combat the spread of the virus.
Saturday, March 14
Total Iowa Cases: 18
Reynolds publicly acknowledges community spread in Iowa for the first time.
“At this time, school closures are not recommended,” Reynolds’ press release states.
Dallas County reports its first positive case, with no known links to travel or direct contact with an infected individual. The state total is 18.
4th District Congressman Steve King is one of 40 House Republicans to vote against the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act.” At the time of the vote, two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in King’s Western Iowa district. All three of Iowa’s congressional Democrats vote in favor of the bill.
Iowa Republicans go through with holding their county conventions today.
Friday, March 13
Total Iowa Cases: 17
An Iowan tested positive for COVID-19 in Nebraska, bringing the state total to 17.
According to the governor’s office, “All positive cases in Iowa at this time are travel related.”
The Iowa Democratic Party postpones county conventions scheduled for March 21. The Republican Party of Iowa holds its county conventions on March 14.
The Des Moines Public School District announces they will close through March 29 at least. They are the first major Iowa school district to do so.
Thursday, March 12
Total Iowa Cases: 16
Two additional positive cases are announced today, both tied to the group of Iowans who traveled recently on an Egyptian cruise. Carroll County reports its first positive case. The state total is 16.
Wednesday, March 11
Total Iowa Cases: 14
Another Iowan on the Egyptian cruise tests positive. At this point, 13 of the state’s 14 cases are in Johnson County.
Iowa’s three state universities — the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa — announce they will all move their classes online through the rest of the semester.
Today the World Health Organization characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic.
State Sen. Rob Hogg calls for the Statehouse to shut down for the time being.
Tuesday, March 10
Total Iowa Cases: 13
Five new cases are announced today, all from Johnson County and all from the Egyptian cruise. The state total is 13.
Grinnell College says students must leave campus by March 23 and after March 30, at the conclusion of students’ spring break, classes will be conducted online through the remainder of the semester. Grinnell is the first college or university in Iowa to alter its campus because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Board of Regents asks the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and Northern Iowa University “to move as quickly as possible towards the ability to deliver instruction virtually.”
Monday, March 9
Total Iowa Cases: 8
Reynolds signs a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency as five new cases of COVID-19 are confirmed. Four of the infected individuals are from Johnson County and were on the cruise ship. The other case, the first reported outside Johnson County, came from a person in Pottawattamie County who recently traveled to California.
Sunday, March 8
Total Iowa Cases: 3
The first three “presumptive positive” cases of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are confirmed in Iowa. The three individuals are from Johnson County and recently traveled on a cruise ship in Egypt.
The press release from Reynolds states: “No additional or special precautions are recommended for Iowans beyond the simple daily precautions to combat the flu including washing hands, frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when ill.”
Saturday, March 7
The governor orders a “partial activation” of the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston “to ensure State of Iowa agencies are prepared in the event COVID-19 is detected in the state.”
Friday, March 6
Neighboring Nebraska confirms its first case of COVID-19. The patient is a 36-year-old woman with a history of respiratory illness who recently returned from the United Kingdom, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
President Trump tours the CDC in Atlanta, falsely saying, “Anybody that needs a test can have a test … The tests are all perfect.”
Thursday, March 5
On a conference call with Iowa reporters, Sen. Joni Ernst says: “With the coronavirus, again, it is the flu. We need to understand, it is the flu, but it is still a new strain of the flu and not fully understanding how this virus might adapt and change, we just want to make sure we are getting the resources out to our public health officials as quickly as possible so that we can curb any additional outbreaks and effectively treat those that might end up suffering from the coronavirus.”
Also today, Congress approves an $8.3 billion emergency spending package to help public health agencies and state and local governments respond to the coronavirus.
Reynolds writes on Twitter: “This morning, I met with @IAPublicHealth and @IAHSEMD (Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management) to discuss the potential dangers of the Coronavirus. Iowa remains at low risk, but we are taking every precaution to keep Iowans safe and healthy.
Neighboring Illinois confirms its first positive case of COVID-19, the second in the United States. The Chicago resident recently returned to the city from Wuhan, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms the first case of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States in the state of Washington. The patient recently returned from Wuhan, China, where an outbreak of pneumonia caused by the virus has been ongoing since December 2019.
Information and updates by Elizabeth Meyer and Pat Rynard