Reynolds: Iowa will take additional steps if COVID-19 resurgence happens

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds holds a news conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa, on May 15, 2020. (Photo by Olivia Sun/Pool, The Des Moines Register)

If parts of Iowa experience a “significant” resurgence of COVID-19 cases, the state will take additional mitigation efforts to target those spots, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Friday. However it was unclear what steps the state might take and what would trigger action.

On Friday, restrictions were partially lifted across the state for businesses like restaurants, fitness centers and spas, requiring employees to return to work and allowing Iowans to go out to some businesses again.

During her press conference on Friday, Reynolds pointed to decreasing numbers of new COVID-19 cases and the “stabilization” of hospitalization rates as a sign Iowa is on track to reopen parts of its economy. 

On Thursday, 356 Iowans tested positive for COVID-19 and 4,274 received a test. In a rolling 14-day total, it appears hospitalizations are still slightly increasing for a total of 5,501 patients, though the numbers have not jumped dramatically in comparison to April. A total of 336 people with the virus have died to date.

A major deciding factor in reopening was the ability of Iowa hospitals to have enough beds, ventilators and equipment to care for COVID-19 patients, Reynolds said. This weekend is the first time the Iowa National Guard is not delivering personal protective equipment, she said, because medical centers are not requesting more. However, both local and national medical health professionals have warned that reopening too soon could accelerate the spread of COVID-19, leading to unnecessary deaths.

But because of the state’s ability to test more Iowans through the Test Iowa program and the State Hygienic Lab, Reynolds said, “We can drill down and watch the activity happening the state,” though she did not provide specifics on what the state would do if an outbreak occurs.

While testing has increased in Iowa, the Test Iowa program has not operated as expected, leading to delays of test results and in some cases, damaged tests. Reynolds acknowledged those problems Thursday and said the program is starting to ramp up.

“We’re going to look at the data, we’re going to continue to assess, we’re going to continue to test,” Reynolds said.