Some COVID-19 business restrictions to be lifted statewide
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Pool photo by Charlie Neibergall
Salons, barber shops, tanning facilities, tattoo parlors and massage therapy businesses statewide will have some — but not all — COVID-19 related restrictions lifted on May 15, according to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
She announced the changes to her emergency orders on Wednesday, after delaying the announcement for a day.
Barber shops and salons will be allowed to operate at half their normal client capacity, and must do so by appointment only as part of the governor's proclamation in order to keep clients from gathering in waiting areas. All of the reopened businesses must keep customers at least 6 feet apart and increase hygiene practices as guided by the Iowa Department of Public Health. Iowa bars are to remain closed, but continue to be able to serve patrons through carry-out, drive-thru or similar services.
The governor initially ordered many of Iowa's non-essential businesses to close their doors as part of a March 17 emergency declaration in response to the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants, fitness centers and other retail stores were able to open their doors to the public again in 77 of Iowa's counties — including Dickinson — as May began, but at limited capacity and with a number of required health practices. With the governor's latest proclamation, business restrictions are expected to be uniform across all of Iowa's 99 counties.
"Over the last two weeks, we have continued to monitor virus activity statewide and in the 22 counties where restrictions remained in place, and we've seen significant progress," Reynolds said Wednesday. "The majority of these counties have achieved a consistent, downward trend in virus activity, and others have stabilized and are beginning to trend down."
The governor noted Polk and Woodbury County both saw a rise in positive cases, but she attributed the spikes to increased testing in those areas. She said the testing has helped the state get a better idea of where the virus is actively spreading and how to prepare targeted responses. Reynolds went on to say, while hospitalization rates have increased in some areas, medical equipment like respirators and intensive care unit beds are still in good supply.
"These positive signs give me confidence that we're on the right path and ready to take additional steps forward," Reynolds said.
A total of 377 new cases were reported statewide Wednesday, according to state numbers, bringing the statewide total to 13,289 cases. However, 5,954 individuals have recovered to date, while 306 Iowans have died of the virus, making for 7,029 active cases in the state — a little more than half the recorded cases.
Sarah Reisetter, deputy director at the Iowa Department of Public Health, said statewide reported deaths are often lagging behind confirmed cases by about a week, which she said must be considered when examining the viral activity's peak in any area.
"Typically, what we see is, once somebody gets diagnosed, if they are going to be prone to more severe illness, that severity really displays itself about seven or eight days into their period of illness," Reisetter said. "So those hospitalizations and then the deaths that occur, they do happen after the positive case counts have been reported."
She said the virus seems to have peaked in a number of eastern Iowa communities, and she expects to see more peaks in the data as state testing increases. Almost 86,000 Iowans have been tested for the virus so far, according to the state.
Reisetter encouraged those more likely to experience complications from the virus, like those 65 or older and those with underlying health conditions, to continue using caution in the days and weeks ahead. She said the public should continue to stunt the virus' spread by maintaining a 6-foot distance and limiting unnecessary trips outside the home.
"Anyone, regardless of their age, who has been in close contact for more than 30 minutes with a confirmed positive case also needs to continue to self-isolate for 14 days," Reisetter said. "This is how we will continue to minimize, control and contain the spread of the virus."
She said businesses which plan to reopen should follow guidance from both the Iowa Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control — especially standards on cleaning and disinfection. She said they should also encouraged customers who feel ill or have been in contact with a confirmed case to not enter. Likewise, she said businesses should develop an appropriate leave policy for employees who may need to stay home because of the virus — be it for themselves or a family member.
The governor reminded the public that, even though more businesses are being allowed to open, Iowans may still qualify for COVID-19 related unemployment under some circumstances. She also said, if an employee feels their employer is not allowing proper leave for COVID-19 related issues, they should call the state's COVID-19 legal hotline at 1-800-332-0419.