JOHNSTON — Gov. Kim Reynolds pointed to improving COVID-19 trend lines in hinting Tuesday she may be looking at lifting more restrictions on businesses and cultural amenities that she ordered closed in March to slow the spread of the potentially deadly virus in Iowa.
During her daily briefing at the state emergency operations center, Reynolds said Iowa Department of Public Health data show a “dramatic” rise in testing over the past few weeks with the number of positive cases “trending down” and “the number of individuals testing negative is trending up.”
According to state data, 1 in 29 Iowans have been tested for the coronavirus. Reynolds noted that 1 in 34 have tested negative, while 1 in 206 have tested positive — or roughly 14 percent of the 107,196 Iowans who have been tested since the state’s first case March 8.
The continued bad news in Iowa’s numbers, however, was that another 12 Iowans died from the respiratory ailment in the past day as of Tuesday morning, bringing the overall fatality count to 367 over the past two months.
The 15,296 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported on the health agency’s revamped website Tuesday morning were up 341 from Monday’s data collection point. But more than half (7,847) of the Iowans who have tested positive have recovered, according to data posted at coronavirus.iowa.gov at the time of Reynolds’ midday briefing.
Since May 1, the governor has eased restrictions on a number of businesses. Malls, hair salons, restaurants and gyms are among the businesses allowed to open under limits on their capacity and requirements for social distancing and sanitation.
Other businesses await word on when they will become part of the move to reopen the state’s economy. Currently, under the governor’s emergency order, all bars, indoor theaters, casinos and gaming facilities, senior citizen centers and adult day care facilities, bingo halls, bowling alleys, pool halls, arcades, amusement parks, museums, aquariums, zoos, indoor or outdoor roller or ice skating rinks and skate parks, playgrounds, swimming pools and spas, wading pools, waterslides, wave pools, spray pads and bath houses are closed statewide until 11:59 p.m. May 27.
Reynolds indicated during her briefing that she has been discussing possible changes with various associations that “have been proactive in reaching out to us and talking about the good practices they’re putting in place” to allow them to resume scaled-back and restricted operations.
“We’re continuing to re-evaluate on a daily basis,” said Reynolds, who noted she planned to make an unspecified announcement Wednesday and follow that up next week with “some other announcements” as the emergency order reaches its deadline.
“We know that it is important that we continue in a very responsible, safe, measured, phased-in manner to continue to open up and what we’re seeing from businesses and from Iowans — they also are being very responsible and thoughtful in how they are bringing their businesses back on line,” she said.
“So it’s been a great effort by everyone across the state and, because of that, we’re continuing to see positive trends and so we’re going to continue to monitor that and look for opportunities to continue to bring more businesses on line,” the governor added. “The list is getting narrower all the time.”
While highlighting the positive trends Tuesday, Reynolds also lamented coronavirus outbreaks in 37 long-term care facilities and the 204 residents who are included among the 367 Iowans who have died in the pandemic.
Officials with the state health agency, the Iowa Department of Human Services and the Iowa National Guard said they are opening a temporary testing site Wednesday in Mason City to test staff from nursing homes in Cerro Gordo County.
Also Tuesday, Human Services Director Kelly Garcia said state officials will start publicly identifying child care centers where there are outbreaks of COVID-19.
If testing indicates an illness problem, a provider will be asked to close anywhere from two days to up to two weeks, depending on the number of children who are enrolled, for deep-cleaning and other mitigation efforts, she said.
According to state data Tuesday morning, there are 383 Iowans currently hospitalized with coronavirus-related symptoms statewide. Of those, 126 were in intensive care and 83 required ventilators.
Polk County led the state with 3,128 positive cases and 83 deaths. Linn County has reported 73 deaths, followed by 33 in Muscatine County, 31 in Black Hawk County and 18 in Tama County. State officials reported Woodbury County has posted 2,343 positive cases, followed by Black Hawk County with 1,628 and Linn County with 899.
Linn County posted three of the 12 COVID-19 deaths reported since Monday afternoon, while Polk and Marshall counties each reported two deaths. Black Hawk, Guthrie, Jasper, Louisa and Tama counties each reported one death.
Ringgold County recorded its first confirmed case of coronavirus, leaving Decatur County in southern Iowa as the only one of Iowa’s 99 counties to not have known case.
A total of 462,634 Iowans filled out assessments at the state’s TestIowa.com website.
Health officials had conducted 12,069 serology tests that look for the presence of antibodies, which are proteins produced by the body’s immune system to fight disease-causing bacteria or viruses.
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