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Gov. Reynolds Announces Community Spread Of COVID-19 In Iowa

Charlie Neibergall
AP Photo
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference about an update on the state's response to the new coronavirus outbreak, Friday in Johnston.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said Saturday night community spread of COVID-19 has occurred in Iowa.

The announcement came after a Dallas County resident tested positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and the person wasn’t linked to a known risk factor such as travel to an affected area.

Earlier Saturday, the neighboring state of Nebraska also announced its first evidence of community spread with a new case in Omaha.

“Due to the detection of community spread, there are new recommendations for individuals with underlying conditions, and all Iowans should be prepared for cancellations and disruptions in routine activities,” Reynolds said.

She said Iowans should not hold or attend gatherings of 250 people or more, and smaller gatherings with older or more vulnerable people should be reconsidered. She said that includes religious services.

State Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati said older Iowans and those with health conditions should avoid gatherings where there could be sick people, and should follow travel guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Credit Iowa Department of Public Health
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Iowa as of Saturday, March 14, 2020.

The latest confirmed case brings the total number of known COVID-19 cases in Iowa to 18.

There are 14 cases in Johnson County and one in Carroll County that are all linked to the same Egyptian cruise. There is one case in Pottawattamie County linked to a California trip, and one case in Harrison County linked to European travel.

Reynolds said schools do not need to close. She said if a particular school has a student, staff member or visitor who tests positive for COVID-19, the school should close for a few days.

But she said if substantial community spread is eventually detected, the state would consider closing schools for at least four weeks.

“This is a very fluid situation,” Reynolds said. “We need to pay close attention to the number of cases in school, community, and the daily circumstances in each school.”

She added the state is working on contingency plans for things like child care in the event schools are closed down.

State public health officials no longer know how many Iowans have been tested for COVID-19 because a handful of commercial labs have started testing samples from Iowans. Those labs are required to report any positive test results to the state public health department, which updates its website daily with confirmed cases.

Dr. Pedati said Iowans who feel sick and think they have COVID-19 symptoms such as cough, fever, and breathing trouble should call their health care provider and work with them to decide if there is a need to be tested for the disease.

“And 80 percent of people might have a mild illness,” Dr. Pedati said. “And so people who have a mild illness, who don’t have underlying health conditions, and are able to recover by themselves at home should do that. That would be important.”

Reynolds said she would meet Sunday with legislative leaders to determine next steps for Iowa’s legislative session, which is scheduled to run through mid-April.

The Iowa Department of Corrections announced Saturday night it is canceling all prison visitation until further notice.

The Iowa Judicial Branch is postponing all jury trials unless the jury has already been sworn in.

Additional recommendations announced Saturday night by state officials

The state is recommending that Iowans:

  • Consider personal social distancing measures
  • Avoid large gatherings
  • Encourage staff to work remotely, especially individuals that have increased risk for severe illness
  • Limit nonessential work travel and gatherings
  • Stay home when sick
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean frequently-touched surfaces daily
  • Ensure hand hygiene supplies readily available
  • If sick, call the doctor first before going in
  • Follow CDC guidelines
Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter