Iowa's coronavirus 'peak' might still be 3 weeks away, officials say Sunday
Iowa’s first “peak” of novel coronavirus infections could still be two or three weeks out, a public health official said at Sunday’s news conference with Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The state announced the fourth death related to COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, on Sunday morning. The Iowan was 61-80 years old and a Linn County resident. An additional 38 Iowans have also tested positive for coronavirus, bringing Iowa’s total confirmed cases to 336.
“It should be every Iowan’s assumption that the virus is currently circulating in their community,” Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter said Sunday.
More than 5,000 Iowans have tested negative for the virus so far.
Reisetter and Reynolds expect the total confirmed cases to continue to rise as more people show symptoms and the state’s increased testing capacity shows more results.
“We might see a peak, a first peak, in the next two to three weeks,” Reisetter said, adding that circumstances are changing and that estimate could change as more information becomes available.
Reisetter did not elaborate at the news conference. The extended estimate of three weeks would put Iowa’s peak of COVID-19 cases outside of the current April 16 expiration of Reynolds' state public health emergency declaration.
Reynolds encouraged all Iowans to stay home — regardless of age, risk group, and even if they’re healthy.
Reynolds also elaborated that she included surgical abortion in her ban on “nonessential or elective surgeries and procedures” as part of a broader effort to preserve needed medical equipment in the face of national shortages. She said it was a similar data-driven decision to closing bars and restaurants, limiting gatherings including religious services to no more than 10 people, or recommending closing schools.
► Coronavirus in Iowa: The latest updates on the spread and impact
“I didn’t close down bars and restaurants to go after the hospitality sector, I did that because we felt that was an area where we would have potential spread,” Reynolds said, adding that those decisions are so “we could protect (personal protective equipment) and that we could get through this pandemic sooner rather than later.”
Limiting surgeries helps preserve medical equipment for treating COVID-19 patients. For example, anesthesia machines can be converted into ventilators — a medical device in shortage across the country, Reynolds said.
“Everyone is making sacrifices, everyone,” Reynolds said.
She added that the language was left broad for that directive and others to allow room for additional guidance from the appropriate agency.
U.S. Sen Joni Ernst also joined the conversation via a teleconference from her home in Red Oak to tout the $2 trillion stimulus package designed to keep the economy from freefalling during the coronavirus-induced shutdown.
In addition to direct checks to Iowans of up to $1,200, plus more for children, Ernst noted that the Small Business Administration can now give loans to some nonprofits. Nearly $1 billion will go to aging and disability services programs, which include meals on wheels.
The direct effects of the bill on the state still need to be worked out, Reynolds said.
“It’s going to take a while to walk through this and to see what they included, and what the state has done and how we can stack and really minimize the impact and get people through these next hopefully next four months and get this economy back and going,” she said.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said most people should receive their stimulus money within the next three weeks.
Approximately 75 more Iowa National Guard soldiers activated on Friday to help with the state’s response to the coronavirus.
The soldiers are with the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the 734th Regional Support Group and its subordinate units, the 1034th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion out of Camp Dodge in Johnston, and the 1133rd Transportation Company out of Mason City.
Working with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the soldiers delivered around 32 pallets of personal protective equipment to 23 county distribution centers on Friday.
Since distribution missions began on Tuesday, Iowa National Guard soldiers have delivered 166 pallets to more than 75 counties, according to an Iowa National Guard news release.
Eight soldiers from the 186th Military Police Company out of Camp Dodge also set up two tents at the Central Iowa VA Healthcare System in Des Moines. The tents will house COVID-19 screening for those entering the hospital.
There are now more than 120 soldiers and airmen on duty to support the state’s response effort, according to the Guard.
Nick Coltrain is a politics and data reporter for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or at 515-284-8361. Your subscription makes work like this possible. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal.