Reynolds lifts capacity limits on businesses starting Friday

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference June 10, 2020 at the State Capitol in Des Moines. (Photo by Brian Powers/Pool, The Des Moines Register)

Iowa’s businesses and attractions will be able to operate at full capacity beginning 8 a.m. Friday, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced. 

Her new proclamation means that restaurants, theaters and other businesses will be able to fully open. However, the businesses still will be required to do extra cleaning and to keep customers at least 6 feet apart as much as possible. 

Reynolds’ action continues to loosen restrictions put in place to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“The 50 percent capacity limit for businesses will be lifted, while retaining the requirements of 6 feet social distancing for certain businesses, like restaurants, bars and theaters,” the governor said at a news conference. Taking away the capacity limits will give businesses more flexibility to meet their needs, she added. 

“Establishments shall implement reasonable measures to ensure social distancing, increased hygiene practices and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, consistent with the guidance that has been provided by the Department of Public Health,” she added. 

The proclamation requires each bar or restaurant patron to have a seat available.

Social distancing guidelines also will apply to reopened swimming pools, senior citizen centers, adult day care facilities, salons and barbershops, malls, race tracks, theaters and performance venues. Play areas in malls will remain closed.

Decisions pending on bottle and can deposit returns, state fair canceled

In related news, Reynolds said it will be the end of the month before she decides whether to require grocery stores to resume taking bottles and cans back for deposits. 

Reynolds said she will revisit the proclamation at the end of the month.

The news conference was held a few hours before the Iowa State Fair Board decided to cancel the 2020 fair. Reynolds also said she did not know in advance whether the board would cancel the fair. She noted that the board already had announced several concert cancellations and had been looking into whether a fair could be held with reduced attendance.

“I stand by whatever decision they make,” Reynolds said. 

State epidemiologist Caitlin Pedati said if the fair were held, those with lung diseases or other serious illness, and those over age 65, should stay home and avoid groups. Others should focus on keeping their distance, washing their hands frequently and staying 6 feet away from others. 

And in all cases, including the fair, “It’s OK to stay home even if you don’t fall into those groups,” Pedati said. Everyone needs to decide on their own whether to leave their residence or not. 

Hospitalizations, positive tests for COVID-19 decline

Reynolds detailed state data that show a drop in hospitalization and the rate of positive tests for COVID-19.

With 1 in 16 Iowans now tested for the virus, Reynolds said rate for positive tests has fallen to 11.1% compared to about 30% in April. 

As of noon Wednesday, 22,520 Iowans had tested positive for COVID-19 during the pandemic, 11.1% of the 202,616 Iowans tested. Of those, 13,566 have recovered. A total of 628 have died.

The state’s coronavirus website indicates Iowa had 293 new cases reported on Tuesday, and another 31 by noon on Thursday.

Meat plants and long-term care centers have continued to be hot spots. But Reynolds noted that 11 care centers have been dropped from the list because they had no new cases of the virus for 28 days.

Reynolds supports limiting liability for businesses

In response to a reporter’s question, Reynolds supported the idea of limiting liability for businesses open during the pandemic, an approach supported by some state lawmakers.

“It would be hard to tell where a person came in to contact with COVID-19,” Reynolds said. “But what we can do is continue testing.”

Perry Beeman
Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.