JOHNSTON — The novel coronavirus is on a trajectory to peak in Iowa during the next two to three weeks, a state public health official said Sunday.
Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of the state public health department, also cautioned that peak projection could change in the coming days and weeks.
“We’re thinking that we might see a first peak (of the virus) in the next two to three weeks,” Reisetter said during Gov. Kim Reynolds’ latest briefing on the state’s response to the coronavirus. The briefing was held Sunday at the State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Dodge.
“That’s the best information that we have right now,” Reisetter added. “I would reiterate that things are changing on a daily basis, and we continue to look at numbers, both here in Iowa and what’s happening in other states. So that certainly could change. But that would be our best estimate right now.”
Thirty-eight new cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed Sunday, bringing Iowa’s total to 336 cases since the virus first appeared here earlier this month, according to state public health data.
A fourth Iowan passed away as a result of the virus on Saturday night, state officials said. The individual was an older adult — between the ages of 61 and 80 — who lived in Linn County, officials said. They declined to offer any further information.
Fifty-one infected individuals remain hospitalized, while 17 have been discharged and are recovering, according to state data.
Despite their projection of a potential peak in a few weeks, state officials continued to urge Iowans to be cautious in helping to limit the virus’ spread. Reynolds continued to urge Iowans to stay home as much as possible, limit public trips for essential purposes, and contact a physician when they experience symptoms of the virus, including a fever and difficulty breathing.
“It should be everyone’s assumption that the virus is currently circulating in their community,” Reisetter said. “Those mitigation strategies are so very important, regardless of where you live.”
Abortions suspendedDuring Sunday’s briefing, Reynolds also defended her office’s assertion that surgical abortions are considered non-essential medical procedures, and thus are temporarily banned under her order.
Reynolds said her order to suspend non-essential medical procedures is part of an effort to preserve health care equipment that is needed for health care workers to care for patients infected with the coronavirus. States with high numbers of the virus are dealing with shortages of that equipment.
When it was suggested that some individuals may not consider an abortion an “elective” or “non-essential” procedure, Reynolds said those individuals should take their concerns or complaints to the state medicine board. She said other questions have arisen, such as whether removal of a kidney stone is an essential procedure.
“We kept the (proclamation’s) language broad,” Reynolds said. “With every one of the directives that we’ve made, or every one of the orders that we’ve put in place, there are questions. So I guess if they have questions, the Board of Medicine would be the enforcement or the oversight for this. So as people have questions, that’s where they can go and then they can maybe get the answers that they’re looking for.”
Reynolds said her decision to suspend non-essential medical procedures, and include surgical abortions in that order, was based on data and the recommendations of health care experts, not her personal ideology. Reynolds and other Iowa Statehouse Republicans have supported myriad legislative proposals to restrict and come close to banning abortions.
Reynolds compared the non-essential medical procedure decision to other orders she has given, including to close restaurants and bars other than drive-through and carryout service, to close schools, and to suspend church services.
“Everyone is making sacrifices,” she said.
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