Good afternoon. If your family is like mine, the last few weeks have raised a lot of questions about so many things that we as Americans often take for granted. Sending our kids to school, heading to work, flying somewhere warm for spring break, going out for dinner with your spouse at the local restaurant, and picking up groceries at the store. All such things that are part of our everyday routines. But news of rapidly spreading new virus half a world away changed that and it changed it quickly. COVID-19 is unlike anything we’ve seen before. The potential that it brings for loss of life and its ability to spread quickly and overwhelm our healthcare system means we needed to act quickly at all levels of government to slow its spread and to protect our people. In Iowa, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve temporarily closed our schools and declared a public health disaster emergency, which means bars, restaurants, and other public places where large groups of people congregate are closed. It means our everyday routines need to change to keep our distance from other people, all in the name of slowing the spread of COVID-19. All of the necessary actions we’ve taken at the state level have come with consequences for Iowans, making them some of the toughest decisions that I’ve made as your governor.
To Iowa’s small business owners, I hear you. You are the backbone of our economy and we stand ready to provide you the support you need to keep our state open for business. Unemployment benefits are available for people whose jobs are impacted by COVID-19 and for their employers, we are waiving unemployment charges so that their taxes are not affected. We’re extending filing deadlines for several state tax types including individual income taxes to July 31st and working with our federal partners on additional small business relief. You have my commitment that we will continue to do our part to keep business in Iowa moving forward. The more that we do now to stop the spread, the sooner we’ll get through this and the sooner we’ll get our lives back to normal. But it is going to take every Iowan to be part of the solution. We’ve already seen it happening all across our state. Schools and communities are making sure kids, families, and seniors have food, churches are finding ways to worship through technology on Sunday, restaurants are innovating to develop new ways for delivery, carry out, and subscription service to ensure their workers still have a job to come to each day. Grocery stores are opening an hour early just for seniors to come in and shop. Schools at all levels are expanding their distant learning opportunities for students. From food banks to ordering takeout from the local restaurant for dinner to a business owner putting her workers first, we’re seeing the best of Iowa stepping up. Iowans understand that we’re in this together and although I don’t know what the days ahead will hold and when life will return to normal, I do know that there is no state and no people better prepared to weather the storm than Iowa.
So, with that, I’d like to ask Dr. Pedati to provide more information about our public health response.
[Dr. Pedati speaks]
I’ll give a quick update on the cases to date and then we’ll open it up for questions. So, through this afternoon, we have 44 cases positive, 40 were identified through the State Hygienic Lab, four through the national labs. This is 642 negative cases — again through the State Hygienic Lab, we’re not at this point able to track negative cases through the national labs. We have individuals in 13 counties where the positive cases have been identified and we will have a map with more information and the cases up on the Department of Public Health website going forward. The State Hygienic Lab is now running three shifts and testing so it’s expanded our capability to test by quite a bit, which also means we’re going to probably see an increase in the number of positive cases that we’ll be receiving. And with that we’ll go ahead and open it up for questions.
Reynolds, K.K. [Iowa PBS]. (2020, March 19). Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Press Conference | March 19, 2020, 3:30 p.m. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQypRFfxnnE&t=250s&pbjreload=10]. Retrieved on April 4, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/user/IowaPublicTelevision.