COVID-19 Information And Resources For Iowans

Jun 8, 2020

Gov. Kim Reynolds pushed to ‘reopen’ Iowa’s economy in May, and now that most businesses are back open, we are all learning to live with the new normal. A vaccine for the virus remains months away at best, and many government leaders, including Reynolds, acknowledge that just because the economy is open, the risk of the virus is not gone.

Where do I go to get tested for COVID-19?

There are options for testing in Iowa. If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 and you have a primary care physician, call your doctor first. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor will determine next steps.

Test Iowa is also an option for COVID-19 testing. Call 515-575-2131 or 844-844-1561 or go online to testiowa.com to schedule an appointment.

How is COVID-19 spread?

By now it’s common knowledge that the coronavirus can be spread by being in close contact with someone who's infected and then breathing in their respiratory droplets. It can also be spread by touching a contaminated surface and rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth.

An open letter signed by 239 researchers addressed to the World Health Organization, published Monday, July 6 in Clinical Infectious Diseases, calls for attention and guidance around a third route of transmission: tiny respiratory particles that float in the air and are called aerosols. They could be responsible for infecting someone who comes along and breathes them in.

Researchers are actively debating the importance of aerosol transmission and whether precautionary approaches should be taken even without clear answers about its role in the spread of the coronavirus. Read more here.

How many Iowans have died from the novel coronavirus?

The state has changed its reporting process for making citizens aware of COVID-19 cases, recoveries, and deaths several times since March when the first community spread of the virus was detected. The best place to look for the most up to date information is the state’s coronavirus ‘Case Counts Dashboard,’ which can be found at coronavirus.iowa.gov. We’ve also embedded that dashboard onto this webpage for ease of access.

At first the state was updating case counts daily in a press release. Now, they are continuously reporting cases as they are discovered on their dashboard. Iowa Public Radio provides updates on case counts and new deaths due to the virus daily at 10:00 a.m. in our Daily Digest newsblog. Subscribe to get a daily email with this information and other Iowa news headlines here. 

Should I wear a mask in public?

Public health experts recommend that people wear masks or cloth face coverings to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

A model from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows that near-universal wearing of cloth or homemade masks could prevent between 17,742 and 28,030 deaths across the US before Oct. 1.

There are lots of different masking options. Here's a guide to different styles and fabrics. 

Where do I go to find out how severe the spread is in my community?

If you're confused, you're not alone. Though state and local dashboards provide lots of numbers, from case counts to deaths, it's often unclear how to interpret them — and hard to compare them to other places.

Researchers at the Harvard Global Health Institute are leading a collaboration of top scientists at institutions around the country who have joined forces to create a unified set of metrics for the coronavirus pandemic, including a shared definition of risk levels — and tools for communities to fight the virus.

The collaboration launched a new, online risk-assessment map that allows people to check the state or the county where they live and see a COVID-19 risk rating of green, yellow, orange or red. The risk levels are based upon the number of new daily cases per 100,000 people. Find it here. 

If I think I've been exposed, should I quarantine myself?

Yes. Even though some of the media attention has faded, public health experts still recommend self-quarantine for 14 days if you have a known exposure to a COVID-19 positive person.  

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The primary symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some people also experience fatigue, headaches and, less frequently, diarrhea. Cases can range from mild to moderate to severe. About 80 percent of cases so far seem to be mild, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

To prevent the coronavirus from spreading, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer if a sink isn't available. The WHO says people should wear face masks only if they're sick or caring for someone who is.

What should I do if I think I'm sick?
If you think you've been exposed to the coronavirus and develop symptoms, call your doctor. Many state and local health departments have set up hotlines to answer questions, so that's another good place to start. It's important that you don't expose others. Call your doctor before you go to their clinic, so they can take necessary precautions. Reach Iowa's COVID-19 hotline by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431.

What does it mean to "self-quarantine," and how do I know if I should do it?
self-quarantine is when you choose to isolate yourself, based on either knowing or believing you may have been exposed to the coronavirus while interacting with others. If you've traveled to a country or other state or city where there are known COVID-19 cases or a dense population of people from many different towns, you should plan to self-quarantine once you return. In fact, your employer may require you to quarantine yourself. 

If you choose or are told to self-quarantine, you should monitor for symptoms of becoming ill. This includes regularly checking your temperature and watching for other signs of COVID-19 illness. 

When you decide to self-quarantine, you'll need to be ready to be isolated for a 14-day period, which is the length of the incubation period for the coronavirus.