Iowa Gov. Reynolds extends business closures to April 7, adds more to list of closings
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Iowa Gov. Reynolds extends business closures to April 7, adds more to list of closings

Many non-essential Iowa businesses will remain closed through April 7, an extension of one week announced Thursday by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Reynolds originally ordered many non-essential businesses closed through the end of March as a means to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. She announced the one-week extension during her daily briefing on the state’s response to the pandemic on Thursday at the State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Dodge in Johnston.

The governor did change a previous announcement.

She said Thursday that local officials did not have the authority to issue shelter-at-home orders for their communities, likely ending local debates over whether to take a step seen as drastic but by some as necessary. On Monday, she had said at a news conference that local officials could take such action if they felt it right for their communities.

But Reynolds added to her order the closure of additional retail stores, including book stores; clothing and shoe stores; jewelry, luggage, cosmetics, perfume, and beauty supply stores; florists; and furniture and home furnishing stores.

“These additional steps, along with those we’ve already taken, are equivalent to the goals of many of the shelter-in-place orders (instituted in other states),” Reynolds said. “I understand that these decisions will continue to impact the lives and livelihoods of Iowans. But the more we do now to mitigate the spread of the virus, the sooner that we will get through this so that life and business can get back to normal.”

Reynolds also ordered the suspension of all non-essential or elective surgeries, any medical procedures that can be delayed without undue risk to the patient, and all elective dental procedures, including routine hygienic, cosmetic or orthodontic procedures, excepting only emergency dental procedures.

She also ordered health care facilities and nursing homes to engage in advanced health screenings for staff.

In order to encourage the use of telehealth, Reynolds also ordered insurance companies to reimburse health care providers for telehealth services at the same rate as in-person services.

“These actions will help us preserve the personal protective equipment (used by health care workers) as well as our health care workforce,” Reynolds said.

Thirty-four new cases of the novel coronavirus in Iowa were confirmed Thursday by the state.

That brings Iowa’s total to 179 confirmed cases in 37 counties. Just one coronavirus-related death has been reported thus far.

Thirty-one individuals are hospitalized due to the virus, according to state public health department data. Another 15 individuals hospitalized for the virus were discharged and are recovering.

Reynolds said she extended the closures in part because not enough time has passed to give state public health officials sufficient data to determine whether current orders are proving effective in slowing the virus’ spread. She said with her original order nearly set to expire next week, she extended the closures Thursday to allow businesses to plan accordingly.

“As we work through this week and next well start to get some of the information, and then we’ll continue to re-evaluate and see how we can move forward,” Reynolds said. “Every day I need Iowans and businesses to know that we’re re-evaluating those metrics and seeing what they look like and talking about what we need to do next. And that went into the decisions that we made (Thursday).”

 B.A. Morelli and Lee Hermiston of The Gazette contributed to this report.

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