Gov. Kim Reynolds prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people, limits restaurants, closes theaters, casinos, bars
An epidemiologist answers the biggest questions she's getting about coronavirus. Wochit
Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday ordered the closure of many businesses and recreational facilities in Iowa for two weeks, a substantial pause on both Iowa's economy and cultural life as state officials seek to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Reynolds issued her wide-ranging directive through an emergency proclamation made public just about two hours before it went into effect. A news release from the governor's office said the proclamation will be in place until nearly midnight on March 31.
“These are unprecedented times, and the state of Iowa will do whatever is necessary to address this public health disaster," Reynolds said in a statement. "I have authorized all available state resources, supplies, equipment and materials to combat the spread of COVID-19."
Under the governor's orders, restaurants will end dine-in services but can provide food and beverages through drive-thru, carry-out and delivery. Other facilities such as bars, gyms, theaters and casinos must close.
There are more than 6,000 restaurants and bars in Iowa, according to the Iowa Restaurant Association. Those businesses employ more than 153,000 people.
Tony Welch, general manager at Exile Brewing Co., said the news Tuesday will slow business. But he said their beverages will still be sold at grocery stores. Dining services, growlers and six-packs will also be available for curbside pick-up.
“Clearly, it’s going to take a big hit on the economy overall and especially our industry, but we’re hoping that we can do what we can to be as proactive as possible to kind of be in front of this,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that the coronavirus has been transmitted through food. The virus is typically linked to person-to-person spread through respiratory droplets.
"It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads," according to the agency's website.
Reynolds' actions follow similar steps by other governors who are quickly shifting normal business in their response to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
As of Tuesday night, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported that 29 Iowans have tested positive for the virus, an increase of six from Monday.
The virus, which has spread around the world, has infected more than 190,000 people globally.
COVID-19 affects individuals differently. Some have mild symptoms, while others get a more critical illness that has caused nearly 8,000 deaths worldwide. Just over 80,000 people have recovered.
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- What's been closed, canceled or postponed around Iowa as a result of the spreading coronavirus
- Health director: If you have mild coronavirus symptoms, call 211 instead of going to the doctor
- How to prepare, what to expect, what will be affected by coronavirus in Iowa
No more than 10 people
The governor prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people at "all locations and venues, including but not limited to parades, festivals, conventions and fundraisers." The prohibition includes events considered social, such as for community, spiritual, religious, recreational, leisure and sports-related purposes.
"Planned large gatherings and events must be canceled or postponed until after termination of this disaster," the proclamation read.
Facilities that conduct adult day services or other senior citizen centers will also close. The proclamation also allows state agencies additional flexibility in responding to the virus.
In Iowa, many organizations, including churches and sports groups, had already voluntarily canceled plans over the last week as the state ramped up its response to the virus.
On Monday, President Donald Trump issued guidelines for Americans that included calling on people to avoid social gatherings involving groups of 10 or more.
Reaction to the virus expanded in Iowa after the state confirmed it has spread through community contact:
- On Sunday, Reynolds recommended K-12 schools shut down for four weeks. In previous days, Des Moines had announced it would shutter schools through March 30, and many colleges and universities had scaled back or ended in-person classes and gatherings.
- Health-care providers are also seeking to expand services like mobile testing centers aimed at helping people with COVID-19 symptoms (which can include a fever, cough or shortness of breath), and some are curtailing services that are not urgent. Some Des Moines hospitals are warning of the need for more equipment or supplies should the virus spread.
- In the wee hours Tuesday, Iowa lawmakers worked to pass a wide-ranging resolution to suspend the legislative session to help stop the spread of coronavirus and to pass a bill giving Reynolds more spending power for the next several months.
Lawmakers granted Reynolds the authority for several months to transfer funds between state agencies so she can shift money as needed to respond to the disruptions created by the coronavirus. She will also be able to spend up to 10% of the state's nearly $200 million Economic Emergency Fund for coronavirus-related issues.
Deciding to order closures
Governors in several other states in recent days had already ordered the closure of bars, restaurants and other facilities. In some states, police had gone to bars to enforce the new rules.
On Monday, Reynolds had expressed a reluctance to close businesses. Instead, she asked Iowans to practice social distancing that could help mitigate the virus, including residents staying home if sick.
"We continue to assess the information that we're receiving," Reynolds said then. "Again, we can address this, and you can do that without me ordering these businesses to close."
By Tuesday, she said in her statement, it was clear she had to.
"The actions taken today are necessary to protect the health and safety of all Iowans and are critical to mitigating the spread of the virus," Reynolds said.
Some restaurants chose to close their businesses before the governor's orders. Mike Wedeking, owner of Flying Mango in Des Moines, announced his business' closure on Monday.
“I want to do our part to flatten the curve," Wedeking said. "The more people who get on board, the faster we get through this.”
Register contributor Wini Moranville and Register reporter Katie Akin contributed to this report.
Barbara Rodriguez covers health care and politics for the Register. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 515-284-8011. Follow her on Twitter @bcrodriguez.
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