Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday said it’s time to start gradually reopening Iowa for business and she plans to begin with the state’s hospitals and medical clinics.
“Today, I’m announcing that effective Monday Iowa health systems (and) health care providers may begin the process of resuming elective surgeries and procedures through a phased-in approach,” Reynolds said late this morning during her daily news conference.
Many Iowa hospitals have reduced staff hours or announced layoffs due to lost revenue from canceled hip and knee replacements and other surgeries. Reynolds said Iowa hospitals have been able to handle the influx of patients with COVID-19 and she is not concerned the resumption of surgery schedules will deplete the supply of masks, gloves, and other protection for health care workers.
“The coordination and the collaboration between providers, systems and the state gives us the confidence that we can effectively care for COVID-19 patients while also providing procedures to improve health and quality of life for others,” Reynolds said.
The governor also plans to allow all of the state’s farmers markets to open next week, starting Monday.
“They need to set and apply the six-feet social distancing requirements,” she said, “not have people gathering around their stand.”
Only food stands will be allowed to operate at farmers markets, though.
“We want to continue to make that accessible to Iowans, especially during this difficult time,” Reynolds said.
In response, the Muscatine Farmers Market said its opening date will remain June 2.
“The market will look and feel differently this season, but we will work hard to provide our community with healthy, locally-grown food in a safe environment,” the market said in a Facebook post. “We look forward to seeing you all in June.”
Reynolds on Friday also said she will be making announcements Monday about ending some of the business closures and restrictions on public gatherings that she’s ordered.
“There’s a lot of different variables that we’ll be looking at and we’ll take a very targeted approach,” Reynolds said, “so probably you’re not going to see a statewide release on some of these areas that we’re going to be opening up.”
Reynolds said any of the openings she announces Monday will take effect on May 1st. There are coronavirus “hot zones” in the state, according to the governor, but Reynolds said areas of the state with few, if any cases and patients who’ve already recovered, meet President Trump’s guidelines for reopening after two weeks of decline in case numbers.
“Now they’re talking about warm weather and sun and the impact that has on the virus,” Reynolds said this morning, “so every day we are learning more and more and more to really help us mitigate and manage COVID-19 and help us in our decision-making as we move forward.”
Reynolds also announced 521 new positive cases of COVID-19 today, a single-day record, with 110 cases in Black Hawk County alone. In addition, she said there were 11 more deaths for a statewide total of 107 linked to the virus. Another long-term care facility reports an outbreak, for a total of 13 identified outbreaks in Iowa nursing homes.
Reynolds is asking Iowa nurses who aren’t working or who’ve retired to consider volunteering.
“As health care workers have become sick, nurses are in even higher demand, especially in our long term care facilities,” Reynolds said, “and especially as we’re doing more surveillance testing and really identifying who has tested positive, we’re going to need your help.”
Reynolds is directing nurses to the website for I-SERV, which stands for the Iowa Statewide Emergency Registry for Volunteers. The program is for health care professionals as well as chaplains, language interpreters, and others who sign up to help during large-scale disasters and public health emergencies.