Reynolds: I want Iowa to remain ‘open for business’

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a press conference on March 16, 2020.

Gov. Kim Reynolds says she is working to make sure “the state remains open for business” while she takes steps to ensure that Iowa’s health care system is not overwhelmed by the growing coronavirus outbreak.

During a press conference Monday afternoon, Reynolds also said one additional case of coronavirus had been confirmed in Dallas County, bringing the total number of positive cases in Iowa to 23.

“Today, a second shift is being added to the State Hygienic Laboratory to expand our testing capability,” she said. “Our daily capacity for running tests will now be increased from 54 to 108 test per day. And when the situation warrants, we are ready, at that point, to add a third shift so that we can run tests around the clock.”

Reynolds acknowledged she has not yet opted to issue an order closing all bars and restaurants in the state, as other governors of other states have done, but said that and other potential steps are being re-evaluated every day.

“We’re continuing to assess that situation, and we’re not making that recommendation right now — but I said the same thing with the schools,” she said, referring to her recent recommendation that all Iowa schools close for four weeks, which was an idea that had been considered and rejected earlier.

“We can address this (issue), and you can do that without me ordering these businesses to close,” she said. “If you are sick, have the fever or a cough, or any respiratory illnesses, stay home. Practice social distancing. Once we apply the basic recommendations that the Department of Public Health and the CDC are making, we will start to have the impact we are looking for without having to implement some of those additional procedures.”

Reynolds said she isn’t ruling out an order to close those establishments, but said at this point she’s not willing to take that step. She noted that some restaurants may offer take-out service that minimizes person-to-person interaction.

“Hey, I bet they do take-out, so call in an order, and pick it up and take it home” she said. “So there are these other things we can do to support our businesses and industry to help keep them up and running.”

Reynolds said she spoke to representatives of Iowa’s grocery industry over the weekend and said “we’re coordinating efforts there to make sure we can get the commodities out to the locations so that Iowans will be served.”

The governor said her office is currently “focused on preventing a sudden spike in positive cases that could overwhelm our health care system and cause other significant impacts in the state.”

Those efforts, she said, have included the recommendation that Iowa schools close for the next four weeks and the development of new policies that will create more child-care options for families.

“This includes financial assistance so that child-care providers who receive child-care assistance (from the state) are paid upon enrollment rather than attendance, and ways to expedite licensing so we can quickly ramp up child-care capacity,” she said. “Many low-income families who rely on meal programs in their schools are worried about how they will feed their children at home. Iowa has already applied for, and received, a USDA waiver that allows schools to continue serving meals upon closure.”

Reynolds also said the Iowa Legislature is considering a bill that she supports, which would waive the instructional-time requirements for Iowa students.  Any time missed while the schools are closed — at least through April 12 — will not be counted against them.

She said she will sign that legislation if it’s approved by the House and Senate, adding that it would provide the state with the authority to waive the instructional-time requirement for an even longer period of time should that be necessary.

The governor said she met Monday with the directors of all state agencies to ensure they are prepared to meet the needs of Iowans and maintain a continuity of service.

She said her staff also met with Iowa health care providers to make sure they are prepared to “serve those who become ill.”

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.