Iowa Gov. Reynolds says schools will remain open, 17 COVID-19 cases in Iowa

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JOHNSTON, Iowa (WOWT) -- Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke at a press conference today to announce 17 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the state, while schools will remain open.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (Courtesy of the Office of the Governor of Iowa)

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"As we prepare for what is ahead, I am confident we are ready," Reynolds said. She added President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency earlier Friday will impact how Iowa will respond to the pandemic in the future.

In Iowa there are 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Ten Iowans who have been quarantined on the Grand Princess cruise ship will return home tonight, Reynolds said.

The most recent confirmed case, Reynolds explained, is a resident in Harrison County and is now being treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center's quarantine unit.

Reynolds said Iowa is not experiencing community spread but anticipates it will.

Community spread is when so many cases occur, officials can no longer trace where the infected persons' were exposed to the virus.

State agencies notified employees that non-essential travel has ceased, Reynolds said.

"Now is the time to dramatically reduce risk," Reynolds said. "We must be responsible. If decisions are made too soon it can have larger consequences for families and businesses."

Iowa Public Health Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati said they continue to recommend event organizers prepare and have contingency plans should the need arise.
Some organizations in Iowa already have called off plans.

"It is likely we will see more cases. We want to reduce the impact of the virus as much as possible," Pedati said.

Pedati added the various factors in each community is different, so the decision to close schools or tell Iowans not to go to work is one they will not take lightly.

"Those are not small things to ask," she said. The state will work with various agencies and businesses to ready back-up plans should schools have to close.

Reynolds stressed that the situation is changing by the hour, and they are continuing to assess it before further decisions will be made.

"Every day we are learning more -- we need to be prepared," Reynolds said.