Reynolds orders mask mandate on large social gatherings as COVID-19 surges across the state

By: 
Travis Fischer

Governor Kim Reynolds signed a 30-day extension of the public health emergency declaration on Tuesday, November 10, and with it imposed new restrictions to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 continues to surge across our state and the nation,” said Reynolds. “In 88 of Iowa’s 99 counties, the rolling 14-day average positivity rate is above 15%.”

The unmitigated spike in COVID activity has resulted in a corresponding rise in hospitalizations across the state. Several Iowa hospitals last week urged people to take preventive measures seriously as their inpatient beds approach capacity.

Iowa reached a new high of 1,392 hospitalized patients on Sunday, including 196 in an ICU. Iowa has approximately 2,800 inpatient beds available across the state. Of those beds, 66% are currently in use.

“The overall increase of patient volume is stressing our healthcare system and it is putting capacity at risk,” said Reynolds. “While beds still are available for patient care, staffing them is becoming increasingly challenging. … This situation has the potential to impact any Iowan who may need care for any reason.”

In response to this emergency, Reynolds is imposing a new restriction targeting public gatherings. Any social, community, recreational, leisure, or sporting gathering with 25 people indoors or 100 people outdoors are prohibited unless everybody over the age of two is wearing a mask. People attending these events must remain in groups of eight or less (unless the entire group is from the same household) and these groups must maintain six feet of distance from each other.

In addition, for indoor youth sporting events, only two spectators per participant will be permitted to attend.

Outside of large-scale gatherings, the proclamation also requires mask use for both employees and customers at businesses that provide personal services, such as salons, barbershops, massage therapists, and tattoo parlors.

Violations of this mandate will be a simple misdemeanor.

“It’s critical that all Iowans do everything within their power to stop the spread of the virus now,” said Reynolds. “The virus is spreading easily between people as they gather together in groups or go about their normal activities. Especially when preventative health measures like masking and social distancing aren’t being followed.”

The governor also recommended that employers reevaluate work-from-home capabilities and encourages them to allow their workers to work remotely if possible.

As of Sunday, November 15, there have been 185,185 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, increasing the 152,804 total from the week prior by 32,381, a 46% increase in new cases from the previous week.

In total, approximately 9,259 elderly adults (age 80+); 27,777 older adults (60-79); 51,852 middle aged adults (40-59); 77,778 young adults (18-39); and 16,667 children have tested positive for the disease. These estimates are based on a percentage-based breakdown of the state’s reported positive cases.

With 107,887 cases considered recovered, that leaves roughly 75,313 Iowans currently known to be fighting the disease, an increase of 25,099 from the previous week. This marks a 50% increase in active cases over the last seven days.

1,101,075 individuals have been tested for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including 990,480 PCR tests and 110,595 antigen tests. An average of 7,562 PCR tests per day were counted over the last week along with a total of 16,667 new antigen tests. Though, without the number of repeat tests on individuals, it’s unknown exactly how many tests the state has performed. Reynolds said on Thursday that the state has processed two million tests.

The Test Iowa program has approximately 140,000 testing kits remaining, which is expected to last through December 11. Governor Reynolds has amended the state’s contract with NomiHealth to purchase an additional 360,000 sample collection kits at a cost of $3.42 million.

Current testing shows that roughly 46% of positive cases result in symptoms while 9% have been asymptomatic, with the remaining cases pending or unknown.

In addition, 70,922 Iowans have undergone serology testing for coronavirus antibodies, which would indicate that they have had the virus. Of that number, 4,244, about 6%, have tested positive for antibodies.

Coronavirus deaths continue to rise with 143 new deaths reported in the last week, bringing the state total to 1,985.

In total, approximately 1,033 elderly (52.04%), 784 older adults (39.5%), 139 middle aged adults (7%), 28 young adults (1.41%), and one child (.02%) have died from the virus since the pandemic began.

Of the new deaths, 44 have been attributed to outbreaks in long term care facilities, bringing the number of deaths in long term care facilities to 934.

The number of long term care facilities reporting outbreaks continues to rise, with an increase of 8 bringing the total to 100 facilities with outbreaks consisting of 2,915 positive individuals and 1,372 considered recovered.

Though Reynolds has not issued a proclamation restricting activities or closing businesses, she nevertheless reminds Iowans that they are responsible for their own behavior and should consider the impact that their actions could have on their community.

“The things that seem the least threatening are some of the highest risk activities right now, like wedding receptions, youth sports, and even having some neighbors over to watch a football game,” said Reynolds. “If we want to protect our healthcare workers, keep our businesses open, our kids in school, and our hospitals open, now is the time for every Iowan to carefully consider what more you can do to prevent being exposed to the virus and further spreading it.”

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