Reynolds says virus ‘is not going away’ and reopens more Iowa businesses

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to the press during the daily COVID-19 news conference on May 20, 2020, at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa. (Photo by Kelsey Kremer/Pool, The Des Moines Register)

Telling Iowans “we’ve got to learn to live with this, it is not going away,” Gov. Kim Reynolds rolled back COVID-19 mitigation efforts and announced plans to reopen the state’s movie theaters, taverns and other establishments.

“Iowa’s recovery is underway,” Reynolds said at her daily press briefing, “and our collective work as Iowans to mitigate, contain and manage virus activity in our communities is generating the type of results that enable to us to ease restrictions, open businesses, and get our state back to work safely and responsibly.”

Theaters, museums, aquariums, wedding reception venues and zoos will be allowed to reopen on Friday with appropriate public health measures, such as social distancing, in place. Swimming pools will also be permitted to reopen for lap swimming and swimming lessons.

Also on Friday, the state will reopen rental cabins and campground restrooms in state parks.

Next Thursday, May 28, taverns and other alcohol-related establishments that have been limited to carryout and delivery will be allowed to reopen assuming they follow the same public health measures, such as operating at 50% of capacity, that restaurants have been asked to observe.

Reynolds said she’s confident the state can respond quickly to “manage and control” the virus if there’s a surge in infections caused by the reopening of additional businesses. While she stopped short of saying she would order businesses closed again if there’s a surge in new cases, she said “we will make accommodations accordingly.”

The announcement comes at a time when the state is typically confirming more than 200 new infections per day — the same rate the state experienced in mid-April, but a reduction from the 400 to 500 new cases the state was reporting each day in late April.

“We are seeing a stabilization,” Reynolds said. “We have to move forward. We have to recognize the fact that the virus is in our communities and we have to learn to navigate that until, or if, a vaccine is discovered.”

The governor said there are many considerations, other than infection data, that go into the decision to reopen businesses.

“There are so many other factors that we have to balance,” she said, “whether that’s food insecurity on the uptick, domestic and child abuse, we don’t have eyes on kids because we are not in school. You know, there’s the additional uptick of suicides, mental well-being, families that are sitting there watching their livelihoods, you know, evaporate. People that are losing their jobs. That is part of the scenario.”

Reynolds said she’s talking to casino operators about a timetable for them to reopen “in a safe and responsible manner. We’ve got to learn to live with this, it is not going away. We can, in fact, protect the health and well-being of Iowans as well as the livelihoods of Iowans and the health of our economy.”

On Tuesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported two additional deaths for the previous day, bringing the total statewide number of fatalities to 367.

On Wednesday, the department reported only one additional death for the previous day, but it revised Tuesday’s number of newly confirmed deaths from two to nine. That brought the cumulative statewide death toll to 385, which represents 18 additional deaths over the 367 deaths the department reported on Tuesday.

To date, more than 15,500 Iowans have tested positive for COVID-19.

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.