Iowa schools are closed for the rest of the school year, and many businesses remain closed through April 30 by order of the governor as the state works to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. We'll be posting updates from Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health and other news as it becomes available here for the week of April 26 - May 2.
Get caught up on the most important headlines from from April 19-25 here.
- Do you have questions about how the outbreak is being handled in Iowa? Fill out this form, and we'll try to answer as many of your questions as we can with our reporting.
- Find more information from the Iowa Department of Public Health here.
- Find a map of cases across the U.S. here.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect the new reporting maps and data released by state health officials on Tuesday, April 14.
11:00 a.m. - Gov. Reynolds hosts press conference with updates on COVID-19 in Iowa
9:01 a.m. - As Gov. Kim Reynolds takes steps to re-open parts of the state, cases of the coronavirus in Black Hawk County continue to spike
As of Monday, more than a fifth of Iowa’s total confirmed cases are in Black Hawk County. Local officials say the surge isn’t over yet. And they’re seeing more health care workers test positive too, which officials said is “becoming a very scary situation.”
Dr. Sharon Duclos, of Peoples Community Health Clinic in Waterloo became emotional speaking with reporters Monday. “As I encourage my staff to come to work every day and be compassionate and help people, it’s my biggest fear is I’m going to lose of them. And that I have to carry on my shoulders.”
Hospital officials said providers seem to be contracting the virus both through community spread and patient interactions. They’re considering bringing in staff from other parts of the state to meet the need.
4:41 p.m. – A Linn County official expresses concerns about the partial re-opening of four counties that border it
Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker says residents of counties with different policies could impact each other as they travel for work or essentials. “I can tell you that this new approach to reopening our economy at such great speed can only work if we remain vigilant, and apparently remain within the borders of our own counties as much as possible. However Linn County is a major hub for our region.”
Walker is urging Iowans to operate as if every person they come into contact with has the virus, even if they’re from one of the counties that will start to reopen. A Linn County Public Health representative says residents should stay home, wear face masks and wash their hands to avoid a spike in infections.
Linn County is reporting more than 600 coronavirus cases and 35 deaths, as well as four long-term care facility outbreaks.
3:55 p.m. – Northwest Iowa mayors request more transparency around COVID-19 data sharing
The mayors of Sioux City and Sergeant Bluff issued a statement Monday with the mayors of North Sioux City, South Dakota and South Sioux City and Dakota City in Nebraska. There has been a spike in COVID-19 cases in the Sioux City Metro area, so they’re calling on state and county public health departments to be more transparent in reporting information on COVID-19.
The five mayors said in a statement that they are asking county and state public health departments to cite specific locations where outbreaks or a spread of the coronavirus have happened. The letter also asks businesses to take responsibility for an outbreak that happens in their facilities. Woodbury County, Iowa and Dakota County, Nebraska each have more than 600 cases of COVID-19. But officials have declined to point to a reason for the spike. Woodbury County’s Siouxland District Health Department has cited Iowa law constraints as a reason for withholding information.
Last week, Siouxland District Health reported the first death in Woodbury. The Sioux City Journal reported the man had been an employee of a Dakota City Tyson Fresh Meats plant. Tyson says it has confirmed cases at some of its locations, but has declined to single out the plant.
3:43 p.m. - Infectious disease experts say the state is acting too soon
Gov. Kim Reynolds says easing restrictions on churches and some businesses is part of learning to live with the virus until a vaccine is available.
But Dr. Eli Perencevich, a professor of internal medicine and epidemiology at the University of Iowa, says the latest surge of cases across the state suggests COVID-19 is not yet under control.
Perencevich says if someone with the virus visits an open part of the state before showing symptoms, it could spread quickly. Reynolds says she is not restricting movement from county to county. But she says older Iowans and others at a higher risk of severe illness should continue to stay home.
3:18 p.m. – Linn County begins publishing demographic data of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19
Across Iowa, people of color make up a disproportionate number of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases. But newly released data shows this trend is even more pronounced in Linn County than at the statewide level.
According to county numbers, as of Monday, more than 28% of the county’s confirmed cases are among black residents. Overall, about 6% of the county’s residents are black, according to Census data.
The county is home to many Central and East African refugees, many of whom work in meatpacking and manufacturing facilities, which have been hard-hit by the virus.
It’s not clear the extent that this may be driving Linn County’s trends. But the county isn’t alone; across the country, people of color appear to be more likely to get the virus and more likely to die from it.
2:26 p.m. – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is moving ahead with plans to reopen parts of the state where cases are trending downward
Starting May 1st restaurants, retail stores and shopping malls can partially reopen in 77 counties, including some next door to recent hot spots. Reynolds says the businesses will be limited to 50 percent of their normal customer capacity. “It allows our other communities to open up. And everybody eventually wants to do that, we want to just make sure that we’re doing it in a responsible and safe manner.”
In the 22 other counties, business restrictions will continue until at least May 15th. Reynolds is not limiting travel between the two groups of counties but says if case numbers start to rise in areas that are reopened, restrictions could go back into effect.
2:24 p.m. – The Sioux City farmers market will open May 6, but vendors will be taking extra precautions this year because of COVID-19
Farmers markets like Sioux City’s will have a different feel when they open for the season. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation last week allowing farmers markets to move ahead, but with limited operations.
The Sioux City Farmers Market normally has music, tables to sit at and chalk for kids to draw with. Roger Caudron, with the farmers market board, says there will be none of that when they open May 6.
They’ll only have food and farm vendors under the governor’s order. Caudron says vendors will wear gloves and masks and they’ll be spaced farther apart. One of those vendors is Heartland Coffee and Nosh. Owner Stacy Orndorff says employees will sanitize their hands each time they take cash and they’ll make sure customers keep a distance. “We’re going to put dots out with numbers of them that are six feet apart so customers can line up on the dots.”
Orndorff says employees will hand out food in a tent behind their truck so customers can space themselves out more.
1:02 p.m. – Additional COVID-19 cases announced
The Iowa Department of Public Health announced an additional 349 positive cases Monday, for a total of 5,868 positive cases. There have been an additional 1,668 negative tests for a total of 32,282 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs. The number of positive cases will continue to grow as Test Iowa sites open and additional surveillance testing of large businesses and nursing home staff continues.
According to IDPH, an additional 9 deaths were also reported, for a total of 127 deaths from COVID-19 in Iowa. The additional 9 deaths were reported in the following counties:
- Black Hawk County, 2 older adults (61-80 years)
- Bremer County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Dubuque County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Polk County, 3 elderly adults (81+)
- Poweshiek County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Washington County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
300 individuals are currently hospitalized and 2,021 Iowans have recovered.
At this time, 1 in 82 Iowans have been tested.
12:50 p.m. – Sioux City Community School District deploys Wi-Fi hotspots for equality of continued learning
Sioux City students have been doing voluntary learning from home. With that, Superintendent Paul Gausman says COVID-19 has put a magnifying glass over some of the biggest inequities in education. That includes connectivity.
Gausman says around 20 percent of the school district’s students don’t have regular access to the internet. So the district recently started sending school buses and vans equipped with Wi-Fi to six mobile home parks and apartments. The vehicles stay there for three hours a day, Monday through Friday. The district had already boosted the Wi-Fi signal at seven schools, so people can access the internet from the parking lots.
12:31 p.m. – Iowa Legislature will continue suspension of session
On Monday, House and Senate leadership announced that the suspension of the legislative session will be extended through May 15.
“I appreciate the governor’s leadership through this public health emergency and I fully support her decision to begin to safely reopen the Iowa economy,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. “Prior to the pandemic, Iowa had the best economy in state history. As we begin to set the stage for a return of the Iowa Legislature, I look forward to working with the House of Representatives and Governor Reynolds to put policies in place to rebuild the economy to that level.”
11:30 a.m. - Gov. Reynolds hosts press conference
10:46 a.m. – Additional COVID-19 cases announced
The Iowa Department of Public Health announced an additional 384 positive cases Sunday, for a total of 5,476 positive cases. There have been an additional 1,356 negative tests for a total of 30,614 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs. The number of positive cases will continue to grow as Test Iowa sites open and additional surveillance testing of large businesses and nursing home staff continues.
According to IDPH, an additional 6 deaths were also reported, for a total of 118 deaths from COVID-19 in Iowa. The additional 6 deaths were reported in the following counties:
- Black Hawk County, 1 middle-age adult (41-60 years)
- Clinton County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Des Moines County, 1 older adult (61-80 years)
- Johnson County, 1 adult (18-40 years), 1 elderly adult (81+)
- Linn County, 1 elderly adult (81+)
286 individuals are currently hospitalized and 1,900 Iowans have recovered.
At this time, 1 in 87 Iowans have been tested.
Notable headlines from April 19 - 25:
- 112 Iowans have died due to complications associated with COVID-19 as of Saturday, April 25
- There were 5,092 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iowa as of Saturday, April 25
- Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that the state will begin to relax some closures in the upcoming (current) week on the same day as the highest increase in cases and deaths from COVID-19
- The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs announced more than $191,000 in awarded grants to artists in need during the COVID-19 pandemic
- The state launched a new site, TestIowa.com, for Iowans to self-screen their condition and support prioritized COVID-19 testing at new in-person remote test sites
- Black Hawk County experienced a dramatic surge in cases, as the Waterloo Tyson meatpacking plant announced a major outbreak of cases
- UnityPoint Health announced cuts to staff hours and pay
- After inmates began testing positive for COVID-19, the Iowa Department of Corrections announced they are working to reduce the prison population
- Some summer events announcd cancellations, including RAGBRAI and the Winnebago National Rally