Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a news conference on Dec. 1, 2020, at Iowa PBS in Johnston. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS livestream)
Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she is “pleased” by the latest statistics on COVID-19 infections, which she said indicate slow but steady signs of improvement.
The governor’s comments, made at a press conference on Tuesday, came on the same day Iowa reported 1,944 new cases of the virus and 27 additional deaths.
The governor noted that the weekly average of infections in Iowa is down from the record-breaking highs of a few weeks ago. Over the past week, Iowa has averaged 2,263 new cases per day, a decrease of 47% from the average two weeks earlier, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracker.
“As I stand before you today, I am pleased to say we’re seeing steady signs of improvement but we still have much work to do to improve our current situation and ensure that we can effectively and responsibly manage it throughout the winter months,” Reynolds said. “During the first week of November, Iowa reported more than 28,000 new cases of COVID-19 and a statewide average positivity rate of nearly 32%. The following week, Nov. 8th through the 14th, new cases rose to nearly 30,000, the positivity rate was just under 295 and hospitalizations began climbing at an alarming rate.”
On Nov. 10 and Nov. 16, Reynolds said, she put in place additional mitigation measures such as more stringent requirements for face masks, as well as limits on indoor gatherings and the hours of operation for bars and restaurants.
“During the week of Nov. 15th through the 21st, we saw new cases decrease to 24,210, and the positivity rate dropped to 21 percent — a slight improvement, but still too high — and the number of Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19 peaked at 1,510.
“Last week, from Nov. 22nd through the 28th, we saw our most significant progress in weeks. More than 14,200 new cases were reported, about half of the previous week’s total, and the positivity rate was at 15% — a 6% drop.”
Reynolds said her office is continuing to monitor “this slow, steady progress” and noted that cases in Iowa’s nursing homes continue to climb, as do the number of outbreaks in those facilities. She said the Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals have been working closely with the care facilities as their rates of infection and death have been climbing, and said the agencies will continue that effort.
Governor calls for federal coronavirus relief
Reynolds said Congress needs to “step up and do their job” by passing a COVID-19 relief package, pointing out that Iowa does not have the financial resources to provide assistance to small businesses entirely on its own. “It’s time for Congress to come together and get a relief package passed for Iowa families and businesses who are suffering and now is not the time for Iowans to let up on mitigation measures,” she said.
The state’s efforts to increase testing capacity remains a priority, the governor said, noting that the state has doubled the testing capacity of its Test Iowa program and the State Hygienic Lab is now poised to double its capacity to process those tests. “A strong testing strategy is necessary for a strong virus recovery,” the governor said.
Reynolds described food insecurity, loss of income and mental health issues as “the unintended consequences of COVID-19” and said that between March and September of this year, 319 Iowans committed suicide, a number that is slightly higher than the same period recorded each of the past two years.
The governor encouraged Iowans with stress, anxiety and depression to seek help from medical professionals or contact COVID Recovery Iowa, a new program funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through a contract with the Iowa Department of Human Services.
Reynolds said that Iowans could begin to receive COVID-19 vaccinations before year’s end, and she said the state is ready to distribute and administer the vaccines.
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