Iowa governor closes more businesses, extends closures to April 7

By: - March 26, 2020 3:57 pm

Deputy Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health Sarah Reisetter give an update on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa, March 26, 2020. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/Pool, The Register)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Thursday she has extended her emergency COVID-19 response order an additional week, until April 7, and added to the list of businesses that must close.

Her new order suspended elective and non-essential dental, orthodontic and medical procedures that can be delayed. That part of the order is effective at 5 p.m. Friday. “These actions will help us preserve the personal protective equipment as well as our health-care workforce,” she said during a news conference.

She also ordered health-insurance companies to reimburse health-care providers for telehealth services at the same rate as an in-person visit.

Additional retail stores must close until April 7, including stores selling books, clothing and shoes, jewelry, luggage, cosmetics, perfume and beauty supplies, furniture and home furnishings. The full text of the order is on the governor’s website. Big-box retailers like Target, Walmart and Fleet Farm do not have to close, however.

“These additional steps and along with those we’ve already taken are equivalent to the goals of many of the shelter-in-place orders,” she said. “I understand that these decisions will continue to impact the lives and livelihoods of Iowans. But the more we do now to mitigate the spread of the virus, the sooner we will get through this, so that life and business can get back to normal.”

Reynolds noted the “unprecedented” number of unemployment claims — more than 40,900 announced for the week of March 15 by U.S. Department of Labor.

“The numbers we’re seeing now are unprecedented but not unexpected,” she said, which is why the state has put measures in place to assist people and businesses that are affected. More aid is expected from the economic stimulus bill moving through Congress, she said.

Her order does not change the recommendation that schools stay closed until April 13. “We’re continuing to monitor and assess the situation daily and continue to work with superintendents across the state,” she said.

Reynolds also said, based on a review of statutes by her office and that of the attorney general, that local governments do not have the authority to issue their own shelter-in-place orders to try to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Some Iowa communities in Johnson, Linn and Dubuque counties have considered local stay-home orders. Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health have continued to resist calls for a statewide shelter-in-place order, saying the state’s infection data does not warrant it.

She said her office is working with communities to look at data, talk about whether existing orders are being effectively communicated and explain why they don’t think a stay-home order is necessary.

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