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Iowa reinstates business closings in six counties with increased COVID-19 activity

Highlight increased spread among younger populations, Gov. Reynolds says ‘we are prepared to do more’
Published: Aug. 27, 2020 at 11:57 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 27, 2020 at 3:23 PM CDT
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JOHNSTON, Iowa (WOWT) - With a stern warning to other parts of the state, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a new health disaster proclamation Thursday closing certain establishments in central Iowa.

New public health disaster proclamation goes into effect at 5 p.m. Thursday until Sept. 20:

  • Closing bars, taverns, breweries, and nightclubs in six counties where virus activity is increasing: Blackhawk, Dallas, Johnson, Linn, Polk, and Story. Restaurants and stores selling alcohol will be permitted to remain open, but must stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m., she said, calling on law enforcement, Reynolds said.
  • Those hosting social gatherings of more than 10 people must be able to ensure that all attendees do maintain at least six feet of social distancing.
  • The state strongly encourages the use of facemasks in all public settings, especially when it’s not possible to maintain a distance of six feet at all times.

“I don’t make these decisions lightly,” Reynolds said. “...But these actions are absolutely necessary and come from guidance within the Iowa Department of Public Health. ... I know today’s decision is the right one.”

Reynolds said she hopes to be able to “dial back these restrictions in the near future,” but said that if today’s actions simply relocate “high-risk” gatherings, “then we’re going to be prepared to do more.”

The governor said the decision was made based on COVID-19 case data trends. Iowa has seen an increase in new cases of COVID-19 among those ages 18-40, reinforced by contact tracing, she said.

Across the state in the past two weeks, 23% of new cases are among those ages 19-24, Reynolds said. Those numbers are even higher in some counties in the same timeframe: 58% of new cases in Johnson County and 67% of all new cases in Story County fall into that age group, the governor said. In the past week, those numbers are even higher, she said: in Johnson County, 69% of new COVID-19 cases are among those ages 19-24; in Story County, it’s 74%.

The trend isn’t unique to Iowa, she said, as other states in the Midwest — and across the country — are seeing similar patterns because social distancing isn’t practiced well — or at all — and is causing spread.

While this age group is less likely to be severely impacted by COVID-19, Reynolds said, it is increasing virus activity among the population, it is beginning to become a workforce issue.

“While we aren’t seeing the impact reflected in hospitalization numbers... we are concerned it will start to impact the staffing in our healthcare systems and potentially our schools,” Reynolds said.

Those workforce issues could also threaten long-term care facilities, she said.

The state is working to bring the resources of Test Iowa to college campuses, she said, and encouraged colleges to continue holding students accountable.

“An increase in community spread, regardless of how it occurs, puts older adults and people with underlying health conditions at even greater risk,” particularly as flu season approaches.

Q&A from Thursday’s news conference

Watch the full news conference

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