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Get the latest news about the novel coronavirus from Iowa Public Radio and NPR News.

State Health Department Asking Iowans To 'Self-Isolate' For Coronavirus

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Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier
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Flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
Public health officials say face masks are unnecessary for the average Iowans to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The state Department of Public Health is asking Iowans who have recently traveled to certain countries where the novel coronavirus is spreading to self-isolate for two weeks.

The department issued the request Tuesday that Iowans returning from China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea voluntarily stay home and monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days.

State Medical Director Caitlin Pedati said this means this group of people should avoid work, school and places with large groups of people.

"The idea here is ... what we know about viruses like this is that they can spread person to person when you’re in close contact, and we define close contact as within six feet," she said.

Pedati said Iowans who have traveled to these locations should take precautions similar to the ones taken when they have the flu or other seasonal respiratory viruses.

“If, for example, one person in the house had norovirus or the flu, what are some of the ways you can try and keep yourself away from others and try and limit the fact that other people could potentially be ill. That’s what we’re trying to get at," she said.

Pedati said the risk of COVID-19 for Iowans is still low. There have been no reported cases in the state so far, but she said the state is monitoring the situation in other states and asking that Iowans take extra precautions.

"We want to recognize the potential that this virus could spread and that it could potentially be introduced here in Iowa," Pedati said.

There have been 43 reported cases of COVID-19 in 10 states, according to the most recent figures posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two people in Iowa are currently undergoing testing for the virus. 

Nine deaths have been reported in Washington state from the virus, which originated in China.