Good morning, thank you for joining us. Yesterday afternoon the Iowa Department of Public Health and the State Hygienic Lab confirmed five more presumptive positive cases for COVID-19, bringing our total number to eight Iowans affected by the virus. As I said Sunday evening — when we announced the first three cases — I am committed to sharing as much information as possible so that Iowans understand the situation and can do their part to prevent and contain the virus. Please understand that this is a rapidly evolving situation, we don’t have all the answers at this time, but we will keep you updated as more information is available. Naturally, many questions are being asked about the individuals that have been infected by the virus. While we will provide information that’s relevant to protecting the health of the public, we will not provide some of the details about the Iowans affected out of respect for their privacy.
Today I want to share what we do know now about the COVID-19 cases in Iowa. First, seven of the eight positive cases are related to the same travel event. Through the Public Health investigation, we have now been in contact with all 21 Iowans who recently travelled as a group on the Egyptian cruise. As you already know, the seven individuals who tested positive are recovering at home in isolation. The other 14 are also at home under quarantine and are being monitored by Public Health. Ten of those individuals have been tested for coronavirus and results are pending. Based on the Iowa Department of Public Health’s investigation we know that these individuals had limited interaction in their communities and they did not attend any large public events. So, the potential risk to others is considered low. Of the five new cases that were announced yesterday, four were residents of Johnson County who travelled — again — on the Egyptian cruise. All four are older adults within an age range of 61 to 80 years. The fifth individual is a middle-aged adult between 41 and 60 years who lives in Pottawattamie county and recently travelled to California. All five are recovering at home in isolation. The Iowa Department of Public Health has begun its full case investigation which includes reaching out to the others who had contact with infected individuals before they were diagnosed. We also are aware of 22 Iowans who have been quarantined on the Grand Princess cruise ship where an outbreak of coronavirus has occurred. 18 will be returning home soon on a chartered flight and they are not symptomatic at this time. DPH is now working with the appropriate agencies to prepare for their return home. They had requested they be screened before travelling back to Iowa and they will also be setting up a screening center for when they arrive. The 18 live in various communities in Iowa and additional travel will be coordinated so they can be quarantined at home.
The reality is COVID-19 is now here and we can expect the number of tests and the number of positive cases will continue to increase in the days to come. While this news is concerning, it’s not cause for alarm. I want to assure Iowans that we are prepared and we are taking additional steps to ensure access to resources to effectively manage the situation. Yesterday, I signed a proclamation of disaster emergency activating the Iowa Department of Homeland Security’s emergency response plan and this authorizes state agencies to use resources including personnel, equipment, and facilities to do what’s necessary to prevent, contain, and mitigate the COVID-19 virus. This weekend the State Emergency Operations Center — or SEOC — was officially opened for Iowa COVID-19 response. Directors and other leaders from all state agencies met yesterday to address a variety of issues from mitigating community spreading to adjusting business practices when the situation warrants.
While SEOC was meeting yesterday, I joined other governors from across this country for a teleconference with Vice President Pence and the Coronavirus Task Force to discuss the latest developments at the federal level. I want to thank the President and his administration for their commitment to the American people during this time. Yesterday — on the meeting — we were updated about meetings between the President and the Vice President that they have had with executives from nursing facilities, air and cruise lines, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, as well as the insurance industry. We were also briefed by HHS Secretary Azar, CMS Administrator Seema Verma, as well as leading infectious disease experts. And what I’ve heard from my colleagues from other states is that what we are now experiencing is consistent with what’s happening across the country. The number of tests and positive cases will continue to rise, community spread is going to continue to increase, we are moving from a prevention phase to mitigation.
Children and younger adults are at a lower risk. In fact, there is a lower mortality rate with coronavirus as compared to the flu. Seniors with chronic, underlying conditions are at the highest risk. The best thing to do — again — is remain calm, stay informed, and do your part to reduce risk by washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, not touching your face and your mouth, to stay home — and most importantly just to stay home when you are sick. If you are sick and have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath contact your doctor but call first. Your doctor can assess your symptoms and situation over the phone and then determine whether you need to come in. And this — again — will help prevent the spread of the illness. You can also call the Department of Public Health Hotline, 211, the phone line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and they are more than willing to answer any questions you may have about the coronavirus. It’s very important to know that if you or a loved one is an older adult or has underlying health conditions, you are most at risk. You should take additional precautions to protect yourself. Be mindful of your activities, avoid large crowds when possible, and carefully consider whether travel is necessary, especially if it takes you to areas known to have the COVID-19 virus. So, we’re not suggesting that you stay home and stop your normal routine but we are urging all Iowans to be responsible about your health and the health of others.
And finally, I want to reassure Iowans who are worried about their ability to pay for coronavirus testing if it’s necessary. I want to let you know that all major insurance companies in Iowa have agreed to waive the cost share and copay for the testing, and that includes Medicaid, Medicare, Wellmark, Aetna, Medica, as well as United. And members of these plans also have access to telehealth visits — again — that will help get your questions answered without leaving home until we have confirmed whether further actions are needed. So — again — if you have symptoms like cough, fever, shortness of breath, please contact your doctor and get care. And to talk more about how every Iowan can help prevent and contain the COVID-19 virus I’d like to ask again Dr. Pedati to say a few words. And I would just like to — before I turn the podium over — just thank — a heartfelt thanks to the individuals standing behind me who are working tirelessly with their team to get the information out to make sure they have the latest information and updates and to do everything they can to contain the virus.
Reynolds, K.K. [KCCI]. (2020, March 10). RAW: Gov. Reynolds provides update on coronavirus in Iowa [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmfJIMEexrg&t=1s]. Retrieved on March 16, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/user/kccitv.