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UPDATE: 63 new positive COVID-19 cases reported in Iowa

UPDATE: 63 new positive COVID-19 cases reported in Iowa

From the Coronavirus update Northeast Iowa series
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JOHNSTON — The state on Saturday released its latest numbers on those afflicted with COVID-19.

The Iowa Department of Public Health has been notified of 64 additional postive cases in Iowa for a total of 298 positive cases (a previously identified positive case in Black Hawk County is not from Iowa).

There have been a total of 4,375 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs.

Of the new cases, Buchanan County adds one adult in the age range of 61 to 80; Fayette County adds one in the ages range of 18 to 40; Benton County adds one in the age range of 18 to 40; and Tama County adds two adults in the age range of 18 to 40 and one in the age range of 41 to 60.

Iowa’s death toll from the novel coronavirus has risen to at least three elderly individuals as the virus has spread to almost half the state’s counties.

Officials with the state Department of Public Health reported Friday that two more Iowans have died from COVID-19 and an additional 56 residents have tested positive, bringing the total number of confirmed known cases of coronavirus to 235 in Iowa.

The two Iowans who died Thursday night were described as one adult at least 81 years old from Poweshiek County and one adult between 60 and 80 years old from Allamakee County.

Earlier this week, health officials reported a virus-related death involving a Dubuque County resident whose age was between 61 and 80 years old.

During a Friday afternoon news conference, Gov. Kim Reynolds offered her prayers and condolences to the families who lost loved ones.

Sarah Reisetter, the Health Department’s deputy director, said one of the victims had underlying health issues.

But no other details — such as when they were tested and whether they were hospitalized — have been released.

The governor also defended tough decisions she has made in closing schools and businesses and invoking other measures to slow the spread of the virus that has now proven more deadly in the United States than in other countries.

Reynolds grew emotional for a brief moment while addressing claims by some that the threat of COVID-19 is being overblown and that actions like business closures are an overreaction to the situation.

“Iowans are scared and they’re nervous and I appreciate that,” Reynolds said as her voice cracked. “But we’re going to get through it and if you keep doing what we’ve asked you to do, we will be back to those good days. So hang in there.”

Reynolds told reporters she has confronted “some of the hardest decisions that I have had to make as the governor of this great state, but it’s also necessary.”

“I have to do what I can to protect the well-being of Iowans, especially the most vulnerable Iowans,” she said. “The last thing that I want to do is impact families and individuals and our businesses that are the backbone of our economy. So as the governor of this state I can assure you that the last thing that I want to issue is an order that shuts down a business.”

Earlier this month, the governor declared a statewide public health disaster emergency that included limiting gatherings to 10 people and closing bars, restaurants, casinos and other businesses. She has since expanded the order to include a wider range of Iowa businesses while excluding food stores and essential services.

Reynolds said she took the extraordinary action in activating the public health response and recovery aspects of the state disaster emergency plan to slow community spread of the virus. She said the state soon will face a new test as Iowans return from spring break, adding “we encourage very strongly” that individuals who traveled outside of the state voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days as a virus precaution.

Since COVID-19 was first confirmed March 8 in Iowa, there have been 3,740 negative tests, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and others.

So far, 46 out of Iowa’s 99 counties have at least one person who has tested positive for COVID-19, with four in double figures: Johnson 58, Polk 28, Linn 22 and Washington 11.

“We anticipated, as we tested more, the number of positive cases to continue to rise,” Reynolds said. “We think we’ll probably see that through next week as well and hopefully once we get to (March 31) or kind of the time line where we’ve implemented some of the policies, we’ll start to see that hopefully flatten and eventually maybe, maybe tick down.”

Reynolds and state public health officials have met with health professional, hospital administrators and others to discuss their “surge capacity plans” and prospects for coordinating regional approaches to meeting patient demand if necessary. She hopes to reconvene the interested parties next Thursday to continue the discussions about ongoing health care challenges.

Currently, 32 Iowans are hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms, according to Health Department data posted at coronavirus.iowa.gov/#CurrentStatus.

Photos: Coronavirus in the Cedar Valley

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Statehouse reporter for The Courier

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