Governor: It’s too soon to cancel large events, close schools because of COVID-19

State officials say there are now 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iowa. The latest case, confirmed Friday in a Harrison County resident, is linked to travel.

Governor Kim Reynolds said since all 17 cases are connected to travel and there’s no evidence the new coronavirus is spreading within Iowa communities, she isn’t recommending that schools close or large events be cancelled.

“If you’re sick, stay home. If you’re a vulnerable population with underlying (health) conditions, don’t go to large crowds, don’t go to big events,” Reynolds said late this afternoon. “…We want to keep business open and we want to make sure that we’re protecting the health and well-being of Iowans, but we also want to make sure that we’re doing what we can to be responsive and mitigating our approach and that we’re keeping business and normal activity going as much as possible.”

Reynolds said the goal is to avoid a spike in coronavirus cases that would lead to the crash of the state’s health care system. Ordering school, government and event closings too early means there will still be peak, but it will happen later, she said during a Friday afternoon news conference.

“We need to base it on data,” Reynolds said. “We need to be prepared to take action once we hit ‘community spread,’ or the triggers that would identify that.”

The governors of Illinois, Wisconsin and a dozens other states have ordered the temporary closure of public schools. Iowa’s governor told reporters closing schools too soon can have a negative, ripple effect on families and communities.

“It’s an evolving situation and it changes sometimes by the hour and by the day,” Reynolds said, “and so we’re trying to consistent in the data we’re collecting so we make responsible, reasonable decisions to really mitigate the spread and contain it as much as we can.”

Agencies in Iowa’s state government are holding board and commission meetings by telephone and Reynolds has ordered all non-essential state employee travel cancelled. Reynolds said many Iowa schools will be on spring break next week. She urged Iowans who plan to travel to be safe and be responsible and check on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the areas they’re visiting and self-isolate, if necessary, upon their return to Iowa.

— Radio Iowa