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Governor Orders Stricter Stay Home Policy For Northeast Iowa

Charlie Neibergall
AP Photo
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Johnston.

The northeast region of Iowawill have a stricter stay-home policy starting 11:59 p.m. Thursday, April 16 and going through April 30.

The policy applies to people living or working in Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Grundy, Howard, Jones, Linn and Winneshiek counties.

People will only be allowed to gather with people who live with them in the same household, with some exceptions. This is stricter than the current statewide policy banning gatherings of more than 10 people.

The penalty for violations is the same—a simple misdemeanor with the possibility of a fine and jail time.

Northeast Iowa’s policy will have exceptions for weddings, funerals and other religious gatherings, but those will still be limited to 10 people or fewer. Child care, medical care and other “necessary supports” are also exempt.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said that region reached 10 points on her 12-point scale for guiding COVID-19 mitigation measures.

“This is due in large part to the long-term care facility outbreaks, the severity of the illness and the rate of hospitalization,” Reynolds said. “But it also takes into account the increase of virus activity in that area of the state.”

But the point scale guiding Reynolds’ mitigation measures indicates 10 points in a region would trigger “shelter-in-place.” Reynolds has said she and public health officials are using that scale.

More recently, Reynolds has declined to clarify what would happen if a region was assigned 10 points.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer represents Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, which includes northeast Iowa. She said on IPR’s River to River Thursday she is disappointed Reynolds did not issue a shelter-in-place order even when the region met the state’s 10-point threshold for doing so.

“I understand there is new guidance now,” Finkenauer said. “But what this does without taking those steps is actually cause even more confusion for people in my district and also across the state, wondering why has this step not been taken? Why, when you’re talking about having those metrics and then you hit those numbers and you don’t follow through with issuing those orders, what does that mean? It’s not the time for confusion right now.”

Reynolds, when asked by a reporter, did not say why she did not use the “shelter-in-place” terminology indicated on a state document that describes her 12-point scale.

The state’s order does not include new restrictions for businesses. It reiterates employers should try to enable employees to work from home, and others should take “reasonable precautions to ensure the health of their employees.” But the order states these are not enforceable.

Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.