State reports first death related to COVID-19

Sunday, March 22, 2020
This is a new image of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the disease that flared in Wuhan, China, in late December and has killed nearly 2,000 people. (Photo courtesy of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Rocky Mountain Lab)

Salons, spas, tattoo businesses ordered closed

Gov. Kim Reynolds on Sunday issued an executive order closing another set of businesses through the end of March.

She also explained her thought process behind closing schools — while still keeping child care centers open — amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"Today, I signed a disaster emergency proclamation that takes additional steps to protect Iowans and to mitigate the spread of the virus," Reynolds said at her Sunday press conference. "Effective at 10 p.m. (Sunday), salons and barber shops, medical spas, massage therapy, tattoo establishments, tanning salons and swimming pools will be closed until March 31."

First Iowa death reported

On Tuesday, The Iowa Department of Public Health learned of the first Iowa death associated with novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The individual was an older adult, 61-80 years of age, and a resident of Dubuque County. 

"Our hearts are heavy with the first loss of an Iowan to COVID-19," Reynolds said. "The thoughts and prayers of our state are with the family during this difficult time. I continue to urge all Iowans to protect their health and the health of others, especially older individuals and those with chronic health conditions who are most at risk. We all have a role to play in limiting the spread of this virus."

Child care centers stay open

Reynolds said her decision to keep child care centers open has generated opinions and "high emotion" from families around the state.

"We certainly understand why," she said. "You know, as a grandmother of 10 young children, I share your concern during this very uncertain time. Our children are precious and we want to always ensure their health and safety."

The governor heard from families who felt that when schools closed, child cares should also close.

"The two decisions are not the same," she said. "Each has consequences that impact families but, in the situation we face today, the impact of closing child care is significantly different. The reality is, if child care closes, parents of young children who are employed in essential services such as health care, emergency services, food production and supply and manufacturing won't be able to work."

Reynolds said parents with those essential occupations are needed now more than ever.

"It's these workers who are needed to care for Iowans who are, and may, become sick with COVID-19, so that we continue to provide emergency services and law enforcement, to keep grocery stores stocked and open and to ensure the manufacturing and delivery of critical service supplies continues," she said. "We need to support them at this time by continuing to care for their young children so they can do what's necessary to serve the needs of Iowans.

Iowa had 124 positive cases as of Tuesday afternoon. There have been 2,315 negative test results from the state hygienic lab. Testing is underway in a neighboring state as well. Avera's laboratory in Sioux Falls has been verified by the South Dakota Department of Health to perform COVID-19 testing. The Avera Institute for Human Genetics has worked closely with the governor's office as well as the state health department to establish guidelines on how pending tests are processed. This additional testing site will allow processing of up to 200 tests per day. Avera will have the ability to enter these results directly into the patient's AveraChart electronic medical record.

The governor said her office, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Education have spent a lot of time considering how to keep child care centers open, to look for ways to increase access and to best protect the state's youngest residents. The state agencies have been working with school districts, community organizations and churches to get pop-up child care centers up-and-running, according to the governor.

Child care operators have received updated guidance from DHS. New protocols call on parents to drop their children off at the door and pause so staff members can do a child temperature check upon arrival. Children with a temperature at 100.4 or higher are sent home with no exception. Distancing is encouraged within child care centers when possible. Staff members have been encouraged to remove plush toys. Toys brought in by families are no longer allowed and blankets used for nap time are sent home daily for cleaning. Child care center directors are encouraged to send the state daily updates with any available spaces a well.

More changes as COVID-19 cases grow

The governor also suspended foreclosures on residential, commercial and agricultural properties and eased some medical licensing requirements to "ensure that doctors, nurses and others who are ready to step up and serve are able to do so."

Reynolds called on Iowans who have traveled recently for business or spring break vacations to "strongly consider" self-isolating for 14 days. Her advisory applied to both international and domestic travelers returning to Iowa.

"This will support Iowa's ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and limit the introduction of the virus from other points of travel," her office said in an 11:10 a.m. update Sunday.

The number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the infectious illness caused by a new coronavirus, jumped by 23 new cases Saturday and 22 more on Sunday. Health officials identified 15 more cases Monday and 19 cases in their Tuesday update. The individuals who tested positive reside in 30 counties around the state.

Iowa had 124 positive cases as of Tuesday afternoon. There have been 2,315 negative test results from the state hygienic lab, the IDPH reported. The state is still reserving tests for people in high-risk categories, including people age 60 or older or those with underlying health conditions for whom the virus can cause serious illness.

And, for the first time, a case of COVID-19 has been reported in a county neighboring the Iowa Great Lakes. A person in Jackson County, Minnesota, was identified with the virus on Saturday, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Testing has increased significantly. Reynolds said Friday that the state hygienic lab is now running three shifts, and private labs were also coming online and reporting their results. She said Friday an increase in positive cases was expected in light of increased testing.

Locations of the 124 individuals who tested positive are:

Adams County — 1

Allamakee County — 6

Black Hawk County — 4

Buchanan County — 1

Carroll County — 1

Cedar County — 1

Cerro Gordo County — 2

Dallas County — 7

Dubuque County — 6

Fayette County — 1

Hancock County — 2

Harrison County — 3

Henry County — 1

Jasper County — 1

Johnson County — 37

Kossuth County — 1

Linn County — 6

Muscatine County — 5

Polk County — 17

Pottawattamie County — 2

Poweshiek County — 2

Scott County — 1

Sioux County — 1

Story County — 2

Tama County — 4

Warren County — 1

Wapello County — 1

Washington County — 4

Winneshiek County — 1

Woodbury County — 2

Iowans with questions about COVID-19 can call the state’s hotline. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431.

Dickinson County News Managing Editor Russ Mitchell added daily updates, comments from the governor's Sunday press conference and Minnesota information to this report.

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