COVID-19: Is Now the Right Time to Open the State?
Governor Reynolds started to loosen the public health measures being used to stop the spread of COVID-19 this week. Even though we all want to re-open our economy and get life back to normal, I’m disappointed the Governor did not provide the information or data to demonstrate to Iowans that it is safe to loosen those measures designed to keep us safe and healthy.
According to Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, three criteria points need to be met prior to reopening a state:
- Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses and COVID-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period
- Downward trajectory of documented cases or positive cases as % of total tests within a 14-day period
- Treat all patients without crisis care and robust testing for at-risk healthcare workers
Last week we saw a record number of positive coronavirus cases and deaths. State officials also confirmed Iowa won’t reach its peak for another 2-3 weeks, one of the last in the nation. A new report out last weekend found Iowa had the fastest growing rate of positive coronavirus cases in the country.
In addition to those new record highs, Iowa is still under the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Shortage Order declared by the Governor as some front-line workers still struggle with shortages. Iowans are also seeing more outbreaks at long-term care facilities, manufacturing facilities, and meat processing facilities.
Iowa doesn’t even come close to meeting the criteria outlined by the CDC to begin re-opening either. Hospitalizations and positive cases are still going up and the new testing initiative isn’t up and running at full speed yet.
We all want to re-open our economy and get life back to normal as quickly as possible, however we may end up prolonging the pain and doing more damage to the health and welfare of Iowans.
77 Iowa Counties Can Start to Re-Open on Friday
On Monday it was announced by the Governor that some businesses and establishments can reopen in 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties.
The following counties remain closed until May 15: 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.
In the other 77 counties, the below establishments may open beginning at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, May 1, 2020:
- Restaurants with the following requirements:
- The restaurant must limit the number of customers present at indoor or outdoor spaces to 50% of its normal operating capacity to ensure adequate spacing of groups
- No groups of more than 6 people
- Distance of 6 feet must be maintained between separate groups
- No self-service of food or drink allowed
- Fitness Centers with the following requirements:
- Must limit the number of customers present to 50% of its maximum legal occupancy capacity
- Must ensure all equipment is at least 6 feet apart
- Any group activity is limited to 10 people or fewer, and all must be at least 6 feet apart
- Malls with the following requirements:
- Mall must limit the number of customers present to 50% of its maximum legal occupancy capacity
- Common seating areas (food courts) are to remain closed
- Play areas are to remain closed
- Libraries with the following requirements:
- Limits the number of patrons present to 50% of its maximum legal occupancy capacity
- Ensure social distancing of employees and patrons
- Racetracks (does not include horse or dog races) can only operate if there are no spectators at the event
- Other retail establishments that were previously ordered closed may reopen as long as they limit the number of customers to 50% of their capacity and continues to implement social distancing
Continued Statewide Closures: The Governor’s proclamation also extends the statewide closures for the following until 11:59 pm on May 15th:
- Bars- Carry out and drive through services still allowed
- Casino and Gaming Facilities
- Social and Fraternal Clubs
- Senior citizen centers and adult day care facilities
- Bingo halls, bowling alleys, pool halls, arcades, and amusement parks
- Museums, aquariums, and zoos
- Skating rinks and skate parks
- Playgrounds- indoor and outdoor and children’s playground centers
- Campgrounds- does not include long term or permanent residents. Includes cabins and yurts
- Swimming pools
- Salons and barbershops
- Medical spas
- Tattoo establishments
- Tanning facilities
- Massage therapy
- Door-to-door sales.
Statewide Mass Gatherings: The following mass gatherings can take place statewide, even if there are more than 10 people present:
- Spiritual and religious gatherings. Must implement reasonable accommodations to ensure social distancing standards. Weddings and funerals are not covered under this.
- Farmer’s Markets. Only vendors that are allowed to sell food or farm products are permitted. All entertainment activities such as musical performances are prohibited. All common seating is prohibited. All vendor spacing accommodations must be made to ensure social distancing requirements are met.
Continue to Practice Social Distance
As we see parts of the state open up, it’s important to remember to continue to practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible. Limiting contact with others, or wearing a mask when in public is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. Again, I am very grateful to our essential workers, including health care workers, delivery drivers, grocery store workers, and emergency personnel for being on the front lines keeping Iowans safe and healthy.