Gov. Kim Reynolds hints at extending school and business closures in Iowa
Gov. Reynolds announces 52 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, April 1. Des Moines Register
Gov. Kim Reynolds said that she was looking at issuing a new order extending the closure of businesses and schools in Iowa as the state braces for a surge in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks.
Speaking at her Wednesday news conference, Reynolds said a new declaration would likely come Thursday. She did not elaborate on how long schools or businesses could remain closed. Last month, Reynolds recommended schools close for four weeks. Unless she extends the recommendation, schools had looked at April 13 as a potential re-opening date.
Earlier this week, state leaders said they believed the coronavirus peak in Iowa was still two to three weeks out.
"I had indicated earlier this week that — I think this is supposed to be by (Thursday) — I think we’ll be issuing an additional health emergency declaration that will address the very question that you’re talking about," Reynolds said in response to a question about how long schools would remain closed.
Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Tom Ahart has said it is unlikely that students will return to classrooms on April 13.
Iowa school district officials told the Des Moines Register they are working on contingency plans in the event the shutdown is extended — potentially through the end of the school year.
► Coronavirus in Iowa: The latest news on the spread and impact
Many businesses in Iowa are currently closed through Tuesday as part of Reynolds' public health emergency proclamation, including movie theaters, bars, casinos, in-person restaurant dining, gyms, bookstores, clothing and shoe stores, luggage stores, cosmetic, perfume and beauty supply stores, furniture stores, florists and home furnishing stores.
President Donald Trump said Sunday that the federal government would extend its own social distancing guidelines through April 30.
Earlier Wednesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported the deaths of two elderly Iowans with COVID-19 — one in Polk County and the other in Washington County. Statewide, there have been nine COVID-19 deaths.
Additionally, the state reported 52 more positive COVID-19 tests, bringing the statewide total to 549. As of Wednesday, there have been 7,304 negative tests.
Reynolds said she has not yet spoken personally with any of the families of those who have died due to the virus.
Reynolds took a more forceful tone Wednesday in encouraging Iowans to stay home except for essential activities, even as she has resisted issuing the kind of stay-at-home order many other states have enacted.
"Stay at home. That is the best way to avoid being exposed and to expose others. Essential errands only. Go out as little as possible. Make sure that (if) you're going for groceries or for medical or for limited trips out, do it one at a time. Practice social distancing," she said.
Reynolds has remained firm that Iowa's internal data has not led her to order more stay-at-home requirements, even though more leaders are pushing Iowa to enact such policies. She said Wednesday that the data she is looking at includes the percentage of the population who are older than 65, the percentage of identified cases requiring hospitalization, the rate of people per 100,000 impacted in the past 14 days and the number of long-term care outbreaks.
On Tuesday, the Iowa Secretary of State's office announced it will mail every registered voter in Iowa an absentee ballot request form ahead of the state's June 2 primary. While the polls will remain open on Election Day, officials are encouraging Iowa's nearly 2 million registered voters to cast their ballots by mail out of concern that in-person voting could spread the virus.
Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-284-8169. Support reporters who follow your government by becoming a subscriber. Sign up at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal.