Governor asks Iowans to avoid gatherings of 250 or more; community spread confirmed

Governor Kim Reynolds speaks at the Iowa Capitol. Photo by John Pemble/Iowa Public Radio

Public health officials say a new case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Dallas County and they cannot determine how or where the person got it.

Officials use the phrase “community spread” to describe that and Governor Kim Reynolds is asking Iowans to avoid gatherings of more than 250 people.

“Due to the detection of community spread, there are new recommendations for individuals with underlying conditions and all Iowans should be prepared for cancellations and disruptions in routine activities,” she said this evening.

Many Iowa churches had already cancelled Sunday services. While the governors of Illinois and Wisconsin have ordered schools to close, Reynolds is not taking that step.

“There’s so many rippling effects that come from that and they still tend to have social mixing outside of the schools,” Reynolds said. “When we close down the schools, it impacts the workforce, it impacts daycare.”

Reynolds said parents often have to rely on relatives to step in and children may then spread the virus to their grandparents. Reynolds is asking school officials to make decisions about school closures on an incident by incident basis. If a student, staff member or visitor to a school tests positive for COVID-19, Reynolds is suggesting school officials only cancel classes for a few days for cleaning to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“If there is significant absenteeism of staff and students, they should consider a short-to-medium length suspension of two-to-four weeks,” she said, “or for substantial ‘community spread,’ and we are not there yet, we would begin to look at longer suspensions of four-to-eight weeks or more.”

Governor Reynolds, who held a rare Saturday evening news conference, asked Iowans to remain calm and she emphasized that 80 percent of those who get the virus will have mild to no symptoms.

— Radio Free Iowa