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Gov. Reynolds Orders Bars To Close In Six Counties Amid Growing COVID-19 Cases

Charlie Neibergall
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds removes her face mask before speaking at a news conference on the state's guidance for returning to school in response to the coronavirus outbreak, July 30, in Des Moines.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has ordered all bars, taverns, breweries and nightclubs in Black Hawk, Dallas, Johnson, Linn, Polk and Story counties to close effective Thursday evening. Restaurants will be required to stop serving liquor after 10 p.m.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday that she is closing bars in six Iowa counties amid of growing concerns of an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in young adults.

The new emergency disaster proclamation is set to go into effect 5 p.m. on Thursday. It requires all bars, taverns, breweries and nightclubs in Black Hawk, Dallas, Johnson, Linn, Polk and Story counties to close. Restaurants will be required to stop serving liquor after 10 p.m.

The new proclamation will be in effect until Sept. 20.

Reynolds said at a news conference that this decision follows a spike in COVID-19 cases this month as students have returned to college campuses.

She said in the past two weeks 23 percent of the state’s new positive cases have been in people ages 19 to 24 who have been "socializing in large groups, not social distancing" and is concerning because it could spread to other parts of the population.

"So while we still know that this population is less likely to be severely impacted by COVID-19, it is increasing the virus activity in the community and it's spilling over to other segments of the population," she said. "We are at a point where it is starting to become a workforce issue as well. While we aren't seeing the impact reflected in hospitalization numbers, we're concerned that it will start to impact the staffing in our health care systems and potentially our schools."

Reynolds said that percentage is dramatically higher in the six counties affected by the proclamation. Johnson County, the home to the University of Iowa, which started classes on Monday, has reported 58 percent of its cases in the past two weeks are among people ages 19 to 24. For Story County, which has Iowa State University, that group made up 67 percent of cases in that same period.

The Cedar Rapid Gazette and the Ames Tribune have reported young people in Iowa City and Ames have packed into crowded bars and attended large parties this month, ignoring social distancing guidelines and mask recommendations set forth by state and local officials, as fall semester begins.

Reynolds called on law enforcement to enforcement to enforce the new requirements and said she's working to bring more Test Iowa resources to college campuses.

Her department announced this week that a new Test Iowa site will be opening in Story County on Monday.

Black Hawk, Dallas, Polk and Linn counties already have sites where people can register online to get a free drive through COVID-19 test.

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld released a statement Thursday thanking Reynolds, saying without her actions he was "very concerned about the rise in cases and the upcoming weekend."

University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook also said in a statement Thursday that the university "welcomes" the decision to close bars in Black Hawk County.

"Today’s action by the governor will help our community protect against the spread of COVID-19. It supports the effort already underway by the university and many establishments across the Cedar Valley to protect the health and safety of our community,” he said.