Iowa officials outline expectations for Friday's re-openings across the state
Gov. Kim Reynolds and other Iowa officials on Thursday looked ahead to tomorrow, when many businesses across the state would be allowed to reopen.
"Restrictions will begin to be eased in counties where virus activity is low or where there is none at all," Reynolds said.
Iowans throughout much of the state — all but 22 counties — should be able to shop locally and attend church as they choose, she said.
"But we should expect normal to look and feel a little different for a while," she said.
The governor highlighted the need for personal responsibility to avoid exposure to COVID-19.
"As businesses reopen... Continue to take all the steps necessary to avoid exposure," she said. Social distancing will continue to be extremely important, so stay 6 feet away from others when out in public, she said.
While 80% of Iowans will have mild or moderate COVID-19 symptoms and may not require any medical attention at all, it's important to remember that for 20% of the population, it's a serious risk, she said.
"Stay home when you can, and be careful when you go out," Reynolds said, noting that limiting your time away from home is also limiting your own exposure to the virus.
"COVID-19 is here to stay, and we need to learn to live with it," Reynolds said. "We're all learning how to navigate COVID-19 for the long-term."
Director Beth Townsend shared the state's most recent unemployment numbers during the governor's Thursday update.
In the past week, 28,827 initial claims were filed along with 170,990 continuing claims, she said. The state paid out $51,408,623 in unemployment claims this past week.
Townsend said $102,714,000 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation beneifts were paid to more than 153,000 Iowans.
Since April 4, more than $327 million in FPUC payments have been paid out, she said. Also, $4,810,592 was paid to 13,334 Iowans receiving pandemic employment assistance benefits, which are paid to those who aren't usually eligible for unemployment.
IWD has changed its phone system to play music when callers are placed in a queue, rather than having those people hear a constant ringing causing them to think no one is answering and prompting them to repeatedly hang up and call again.
Townsend also reviewed how requirements will shift for those applying for benefits once businesses begin to re-open.
"If you are recalled to work and choose not to return, you may lose eligibility for unemployment benefits in addition to losing your job," Townsend said.
There are a few virus-related exceptions, she said. Those include:
- If you're diagnosed or are experiencing symptoms or a member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- You are caring for someone in your household who has COVID-19.
- You or a member of your household are in a higher-risk category and have been advised by a doctor to self-quarantine.
- You lack necessary child care because of COVID-19.
- You can't reach your place of employment because of COVID-19.
- You have had COVID-19, have recovered, but have complications that prevent you from performing the essential functions of your job.
Those who fall into high-risk categories may qualify for further benefits, she said.
"We strongly highly encourage all Iowans to talk to their employers prior to their return to work to understand the measures they are taking to ensure the safety of their employees and customers," Townsend said.
Employers will be required to take steps to ensure the safety of those in their establishment, she said, as "it may be difficult to establish a good-faith basis to quit due to safety concerns."
Townsend said employers will have to make adjustments to ensure safety, but it may be difficult to prove that your workplace isn't taking measures in good faith to ensure your safety.
"It takes more than merely an assertion by the employee to establish that this is true," she said.
Iowa Economic Development Director Debi Durham reported Thursday that the state has been able to award $50 million in small business grants since the launch of a grant program on March 23.
Small businesses that were the first to close their doors had stopgap funds within 18 business days of the state program's announcement, Durham said.
The program was developed rapidly to provide quick relief, she said.
"We know that every day that goes by right now is a critical one for so many Iowans," she said.
More than 2,600 businesses in all 99 counties have been awarded business relief, she said, and several thousand more remain in the application pool.
More details and a list of those business receiving funding is available online at
, which is updated daily, Durham said.
Reynolds said the state is in the process of validating with the state's hygenic lab the results that will be acquired from testing through TestIowa.com.
For now, she said, COVID-19 testing in Iowa will remain narrow.