First of all, good afternoon. COVID-19 and the new information continues to basically evolve by the hour and for that reason, starting on Monday, I will be holding a daily press conference at 2:30 to ensure that Iowans have the most up-to-date information. Today we had one additional positive case of COVID-19. The individual is an Allamakee resident between the age of 41 and 60 years. That brings our total to 45 positive cases of COVID-19 in Iowa. This week we took additional steps to help mitigate and slow the spread of COVID-19 across the state. We are expanding testing capabilities at the State Hygienic Lab. We are now running three shifts over a 24-hour period for a total capacity of 162 tests daily through the State Hygienic Lab. As of noon today, the State Hygienic Lab has testing supplies on hand to test 620 individuals. That supply changes as in stock supplies are used and more supplies are received, orders are placed and we are monitoring that very carefully. While the majority of tests in Iowa are being done at the State Hygienic Lab, heath care providers can also send samples to national labs that are running tests from across the nation. These national labs will be reporting both positive and negative results to the State Hygienic Lab daily. And that’s really important so that we’re able to track Iowa’s results regardless of where the tests are being done.
We’re also actively working with our many many private-sector companies, just trying to drive as many public-private partnerships as possible and this also has the potential to significantly increase the number of tests available. So, regardless of our testing capacity, it’s important that we use all of our health care resources responsibly. Testing is most important for those at highest risk of serious illness from COVID-19 and those who are on the front lines of protecting Iowans from it. At this time, testing is being prioritized for all hospitalized patients with a fever and respiratory failure and no alternative diagnosis. Older adults above the age 60 with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing and underlying health conditions like heart, lung, kidney diseases or weakened immune systems. Individuals with a fever or respiratory illness who live in dormitories or long-term care residential treatment or correctional facilities and essential services personnel with fever or respiratory illness such as healthcare providers, fire, EMS, law enforcement and residential facility staff.
Earlier today I also issued an additional health emergency declaration effective immediately that provides additional regulatory relief to Iowans that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. First, we’re suspending penalties and interest as it relates to the collection of property taxes and this delay will hopefully help families — businesses — struggling with cash flow issues. Second, the order helps Iowans stay in their homes by suspending evictions under Iowa’s Landlord and Tenant laws including those in manufactured housing and mobile home parks. When we’re asking Iowans to stay home this helps prevent an unnecessary level of disruption during these really challenging times that we’re in. Third, the order allows the sale of carry out, delivery, and drive-through alcohol for unopened bottles for bars and restaurants, and hopefully this will create some additional business opportunities for those bars and restaurants who rely heavily on those sales. Fourth, this action allows government at all levels to conduct business in this era of social distancing by permitting public meetings by electronic means. We’re also suspending requirements for special elections to fill city council vacancies. And finally, the order suspends additional regulations to ease the transportation of agricultural supplies and commodities, food, medical supplies, cleaning products, and other household goods on all highways in Iowa. We do — and I do — anticipate further refinements to be made in the days ahead as we’re talking to business and industry — our various agencies. We’re asking if there are regulatory issues that are prohibiting them from doing what they need to do and so we’re looking at that on a daily basis.
I fully understand the impact that these decisions have on Iowans and your daily lives, but the more that we do now on the front end the sooner that we will get through this and we hopefully can get our lives back to normal. Again — I can’t say this enough — it’s going to take every Iowan working together to be a part of the solution. And I know Iowans are doing their part, it’s who we are, it’s what we do and I am seeing story after story of how people are responding to the pandemic that we face today.
I’ve also asked today Workforce Development Director, Beth Townsend, to join us to provide you with an update on unemployment and the proactive action underway in her department to support Iowa workers. And I just want to thank Beth on the great job that they’re doing. They are responding in a phenomenal way and really being a great resource for Iowans who have been impacted through loss of work. Beth?
[Beth Townsend speaks]
Thank you, Beth. And finally, before we open it up to questions. To those families who will be returning home later this week after spring break vacations, we also need your help, to help mitigate and slow the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa. So please check the CDC’s website to see if you’ve been traveling in an affected area. If so, you should follow CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines to self- isolate at home for 14 days before returning to your normal routine — or if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to pick up the call and just walk through maybe where you’ve been and any recommendations that they may have. Also call your employer, many Iowa businesses and the state of Iowa have implemented new travel and work from home policies that may affect you since you’ve been gone. Again, it is evolving by the day so call your employer first and just walk through maybe some of the criteria that they’ve put in place. And if you know someone traveling now who needs this information please help us share that with them. And with that we’ll be happy to take your questions.
Reynolds, K.K. [DMRegister]. (2020, March 20). Gov. Kim Reynolds updates Iowans on the COVID-19 outbreak in Iowa (3.20.20) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wKYjIwE8T0]. Retrieved on April 10, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/user/DMRegister.