DES MOINES — As more businesses reopened across the state Friday per her order, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said recent increases in domestic violence and mental illness show the unintended consequences of asking Iowans to stay sheltered for extended periods and why it is important to continue relaxing previously installed virus mitigation restrictions.
Reynolds in March ordered the partial or complete closure of many businesses in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. She has relaxed some of those restrictions in recent weeks.
With the latest order, which went into effect Friday, restaurants, malls, fitness centers, salons, campgrounds, and myriad other businesses are allowed to be open, with some still required to implement social distancing precautions.
During her Friday briefing on the state’s response to the global pandemic, Reynolds said she made the decision because her administration sees positive trends in public health data it is tracking, like fewer hospitalizations and a lower rate of new positive cases.
She also said some negative trends are just as informative, including increases in domestic violence and mental illness.
Reynolds did not cite specific data during the briefing. Her spokesman said he would provide the data by Friday afternoon. The data had not yet been provided when this story was published.
“There is a cost, a social cost to also locking down and not figuring out a way to responsibly and safely start to open up the economy, get Iowans back to work so that they can take care of themselves and their families,” Reynolds said during the briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Dodge in Johnston.
The expanded reopening of Iowa’s businesses comes at a time when virus-related deaths continue to climb. The state Friday confirmed 18 additional deaths, which continued the recent trend of pushing the seven-day average for single-day deaths to a new high.
The seven-day average for single-day deaths was 13.3 on Friday, the highest since the first death in Iowa in late March.
On the other hand, hospitalizations — both total and new admissions in the past 24 hours — continued to plateau or trend downward.
The state Friday reported 387 virus-related hospitalizations; that seven-day average has plateaued over the past week. And the state reported 23 new admissions over the past 24 hours; that seven-day average has been falling slowly but steadily for 10 days.
Reynolds said the state health care system’s capacity to handle patients is one of the reasons she felt comfortable allowing more businesses to reopen. In addition to the positive data she cited, she said requests from hospitals for personal protective equipment for health care workers have been fulfilled and the state still has a stockpile.
“We never guaranteed that no one would get COVID-19. That was never the goal from the beginning,” Reynolds said. “The goal was to make sure that we protected the health of Iowans, that we managed our health care resources to work to flatten the curve and not overwhelm our health care system (and) hospitals. So that’s what we’ll continue to watch, to make sure that they have the capacity to not only treat individuals that have tested positive for COVID that might need hospitalization, but that they can also take care of other Iowans that would meet that need as well. And we have done that.”
A team of experts at the University of Iowa, in an analysis sent to Reynolds on May 4, cautioned that while the rate of the virus’ spread through Iowa had been slowing, relaxing mitigation strategies “likely” would cause a reversal of that trend as more Iowans come in contact with one another.
Reynolds herself remains in a “modified” quarantine. She visited the White House on May 6 and two days later participated in events with Vice President Mike Pence during his trip to Des Moines. Around that same time, members of Pence’s and President Donald Trump’s staffs tested positive for the coronavirus.
Reynolds said she did not come in direct contact with either of the staff members who tested positive, but went into modified quarantine out of “an abundance of caution.” She is tested daily, has her temperature taken multiple times per day, wears a mask when interacting with her staff, and is limiting those interactions as much as possible.
Reynolds said she plans to remain in the quarantine for the recommended 14 days, which would take her through Wednesday.
Allamakee County added one case Friday for a total of 116 cases and four deaths.
Black Hawk County officials on Saturday reported a total of at 1,820 cases and 31 deaths. No additional deaths were reported Saturday.
A total of 1,031 of Black Hawk County's cases are employees of Tyson Fresh Meats in Waterloo. Another 129 cases were from the three long-term care facility outbreaks in the county: Harmony House has 79 cases among residents and staff, while Friendship Village has 38 and New Aldaya Lifescapes has 12.
Bremer County added one case for a total of 63 cases and five deaths. Thirty-one of those cases were among residents and staff of Bartels Lutheran Retirement Community, a state-classified outbreak.
Buchanan County added two cases for a total of 26 cases. Fayette County added one case for a total of 25 cases.
Floyd County added one case for a total of 10 cases and one death.
Grundy County's total was revised downward one case, which the state has said can be due to recording errors. The county now has 17 cases instead of 18.
Mitchell County added one case for a total of four cases.
Tama County added two cases and two deaths for a total of 350 cases and 15 deaths. Eighty of the county's cases were among its two long-term care facility outbreaks: 52 at Premiere Estates of Toledo, and 28 at Westbrook Acres.
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