Good afternoon. Earlier today we announced the updated number of COVID-19 cases in Iowa. There are 34 new positive cases today for a total of 179 positive cases in Iowa. Today we had 397 negative cases for a total of 2,975 negative cases in Iowa. We have 31 hospitalized as of last evening and tests available for individuals through the State Hygienic Lab is 891. Additionally, the Iowa National Guard is conducting 23 missions today to deliver PPE to 23 counties and since the start of the week nearly 100 missions have been completed and critical PPE supplies have been delivered to 53 counties.
As I have mentioned throughout the course of the last two weeks — and as recently as yesterday in my press conference — we will continue to take additional steps as necessary to further protect the health of Iowans and our economy. Today I am expanding upon the public health disaster emergency proclamation that is currently in place by extending and expanding retail business closures, suspending elective and non-essential medical and dental procedures and removing additional legal barriers to ensure a continued strong response to this disaster.
Effective at 10:00 p.m. today, all existing closures, including restaurants and bars, will now be extended another week until April 7th. I am also ordering the closure of additional retail stores through April 7th, including book stores, clothing and shoe stores, jewelry, luggage, cosmetic, perfume and beauty supply stores, florists, furniture and home furnishing stores. Effective at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow through the duration of this disaster, all non-essential or elective surgeries and procedures that can be delayed without undue risk to patients are suspended. All elective dental procedures including routine hygiene cosmetic or orthodontic procedures are suspended with the exception of emergency procedures. These actions will help us preserve the personal protection equipment as well as our healthcare workforce.
Additionally, to encourage the use of telehealth services to screen and treat individuals who may have had the virus. Health insurance companies shall reimburse health care providers for telehealth visits at the same rate as in-person visits. I’m also ordering healthcare facilities including nursing homes to engage in enhanced staff health screenings. And at this time, as I said originally, schools in Iowa are recommended to remain closed until April 13th. As previously stated, I said we would have to reevaluate in two weeks and knowing that we were coming up on that timeline, we did do the evaluation and at this time I recommend that they remain closed until April 13th. We’re continuing to monitor and assess the situation daily and we continue to work with superintendents across the state. Director Lebo will be with us tomorrow to give an update on some of the issues that they’ve been working with superintendents to make sure that we’re providing students what they need throughout this time. These additional steps, along with those we’ve already taken are equivalent to the goals of many of the shelter in place orders. I understand that these decisions will continue to impact the lives and livelihoods of Iowans but as I keep saying, 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.
Also, earlier today, the United States Department of Labor announced the initial unemployment claims for the week ending March 21st and it topped 3.28 million nationwide and that’s an increase of more than 3 million from a week before. Here at home, the number of initial claims filed between Sunday, March 15th and Saturday, March 21st was 40,952. More than 10.6 million of unemployment insurance benefits were paid to Iowans in the week ending March 20th. The numbers we’re seeing now are unprecedented but not unexpected. In Iowa and states across the country, we have an intentionally dialed up some business sectors, dialed some business sectors back as part of our COVID-19 mitigation plans. I know that these decisions have an impact on families and businesses which is why we have also worked very hard to put in place measures that would assist business owners, individuals, and families who have been directly impacted by the orders. We anticipate more assistance is coming soon with the Cares Act, a significant stimulus bill that was passed by the Senate overnight and will now go to the United States House. The bill would provide direct payments to individuals and families based on income, expand unemployment insurance benefits and address part-time, self-employed, and those part of the gig economy and extend benefits after state benefits end and give small businesses access to a nearly $350 billion loan program to cover payroll, rent and utilities and help bring employees back that have been laid off. In these uncertain times we are taking extraordinary measures to preserve our way of life and this is not a typical economic downturn and I believe that once COVID-19 is under control that Iowa will be able to make a strong comeback and again be recognized as a national employment leader. We are continuing to assess all aspects of the situation every day and we will do what’s ever necessary to protect the health and safety of Iowans and support the stability of our economy for the long-term.
With that I’d like to ask Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend to provide some additional information regarding our unemployment claims.
[Beth Townsend speaks]
Thanks, Beth. And with that we’ll open it up to questions.
Reynolds, K.K. [DMRegister]. (2020, March 26). Gov. Kim Reynolds updates Iowans on the COVID-19 outbreak in Iowa (3.26.20) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4sT3mRTLr4]. Retrieved on May 14, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/user/DMRegister.