Well, good afternoon. Before we end the week, I wanted to provide an update to the people of Iowa on the status of our COVID-19 response. Just five days ago, we’ve learned of Iowa’s first positive case of the coronavirus. On that day I upgraded the status of the State Emergency Operations Center — or SEOC — from partial to full activation. The following day, I signed a proclamation of disaster emergency, authorizing state agencies to utilize all resources necessary to prevent, contain, and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 virus. And throughout the week we have assembled teams to address the immediate public health needs and protect the people of the great state of Iowa. We just wrapped up on a two-hour session at SEOC with leaders from several key state agencies about community mitigation strategies to reduce the risk to Iowans and contain the spread of the virus. I want to thank the leaders with me today and especially their teams for the incredible effort and teamwork demonstrated over the last several days. As we prepare for what’s ahead, I’m confident that we have the right people in place to do the job.
Today I am pleased to share some good news, as we speak, 10 of the Iowans who were quarantined on the Grand Princess Cruise in California will be home tonight and we are working to bring the remaining 10 Iowans home tomorrow. This afternoon, we were also notified of one additional Iowan who tested positive for COVID-19. This individual was tested in Nebraska but is a resident of Harrison Country. All 22 of the tests completed today at the State Hygienic Lab were negative. That brings to total number of Iowans infected with the virus to 17. All 17 positive cases are travel related and 15 are directly linked to the same Egyptian cruise. At this time, Iowa is not experiencing community spread of the virus, however, we anticipate it will happen and now is the time to prepare.
This week state agencies notified their employees about new work-related travel restrictions and guidance for personal travel. At this time, we are ceasing all non-essential business travel by state employees. We are also asking that employees speak with their supervisor and follow the guidance of the CDC regarding their personal travel. If a state employee travels to an affected area they will be expected to self-isolate at home for 14 days before they return to work. Now is the time to dramatically reduce our risk and to slow the spread of the virus so that we can continue to mitigate it. But we must be responsible about the decisions that we make to do that. If made too soon, some decisions will have serious consequences for Iowa families, businesses, and communities. For example, yesterday the Department of Education issued guidance for Iowa’s K-12 schools. Now is the time for schools to be putting their plans in place for when community spread occurs. The Department of Public Health and the Department of Education in consultation do not recommend closing schools at this time. Please know that the Department of Public Health and the Department of Education are here to help you when the time does come or if you have questions — do not hesitate to reach out to them.
Now is the time for a measured and responsible approach. This afternoon, the President declared a national emergency and announced 50 billion dollars in federal aid. He also asked all states to work together and to do their part to help slow the spread of the virus across the country. That’s been the focus of our discussion and planning here today. We’re coordinating our plans and our resources and reaching out to businesses, health care, and other partners to be part of Iowa’s strategy to — again — slow down the spread of COVID-19. Next week we are including leaders from Iowa’s health care systems at the CEOC. We will meet with them to discuss and coordinate plans for resources and staffing needs in our hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities across the state. But our mitigation efforts extend beyond the walls of SEOC. I want Iowans to know that they also are a very important part of our strategy to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Just like cold, flu, and other more common strains of coronavirus, COVID-19 is spread through transmission of droplets — it’s easily passed from one person to the next. And because COVID-19 is a new coronavirus, our bodies don’t have the immunity to it and there are no vaccines at this time to prevent it and that is why the virus has spread so quickly to a worldwide pandemic level.
Every Iowan can make a real difference by reducing our risk for community spread. We must be vigilant about simple common-sense precautions. Wash your hands frequently, cover sneezes and coughs, and if you have any signs of illness please stay home — don’t go to work, school, or out in public when you could be in close proximity to others. And most importantly if you are feeling the symptoms, we ask that you call the doctor first before going in for an appointment and they will walk you through an assessment and help decide what are the appropriate actions to take. As you’re going to probably hear Dr. Pedati say, this sounds simple but these are the steps that really will protect your health and the health of all Iowans. And I can’t stress this enough, the COVID-19 poses the most risk to older adults above the age of 60 and especially those with underlying health conditions such as, heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. If this describes you or a loved one, we again urge you to take extra precautions. The CDC recommends you avoid large public events and crowded places. Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel, stay home as much as possible. If there is an outbreak in your community keep some space between yourself and others when you are out. Stay away from people who are sick and of course, wash your hands often, cover cough and sneezes and stay home when you’re sick.
Finally, next week is spring break for many schools and Iowa families will be going on vacation. Please know the COVID-19 status in the area where you are traveling. You can find the most up-to-date travel information and restrictions on the CDC website at cdc.gov and if you are in an affected area, I urge you to self-isolate at home for 14 days as recommended to monitor your health and to again prevent the spread of the coronavirus to your classmates, co-workers, friends, and neighbors, and your fellow Iowans. Be safe and be responsible.
With that I’d like to invite Dr. Pedati to provide more detail about community spread and some of the guidance issued this week by the Department of Public Health. But before she does that, I want to just acknowledge — again — the tremendous work that she and her team and all of the people standing behind me today have done in these past five days. We are very grateful and just really appreciate the job that you’re doing. With that I’ll turn it over to Dr. Pedati.
Reynolds, K. K. [KCAU-TV Sioux City]. (2020, March 13). IA Gov. Reynolds speaks about COVID-19 developments [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ertxhLTQWbo]. Retrieved on April 1, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/user/dfeenstra1969.