With the impact of COVID-19 expected to ramp up over the next two to three weeks, Gov. Kim Reynolds sought to assure Iowans the state is doing everything it can to prepare for the crisis, particularly as compared to “shelter-in place” orders issued by other states.
“Iowans of all walks of life are either strongly in favor or strongly opposed to sheltering in place. This has become a divisive issue at a time when we must be united in our response to this crisis,” she said. “I want Iowans to understand that we have taken significant and incremental steps to mitigate the spread of the virus since we identified our first case in Iowa on March 8. We were ahead of many states in our response efforts and we continue to dial up our mitigation efforts based on data that was presented from the experts in the Iowa Department of Public Health.”
Specifically, she highlighted she signed a proclamation of disaster emergency on March 8, and fully activated the state emergency operations center (SEOC. Since, she said has signed a proclamation on recommending schools close for four weeks, ordering business closings — including restaurants and bars — and restricting gatherings to 10 people or less.
Subsequently, she said she ordered all non-essential and elective surgical, dental and orthodotic procedures suspended, closed several more types of retail stores and yesterday extended school closures and all existing service suspensions and business closures through April 30, as well as all regulatory relief and restrictions on mass gatherings.
“If you did a side-by-side comparison of what we are doing in Iowa and what other states are doing, they are much the same, even though states that have issued ‘shelter-in-place’ orders have kept the majority of their businesses open, similar to our orders,” she said. “As we continue to evaluate our data, and make the recommendations of the Department of Public Health and the CDC, if additional action is necessary to protect the health and safety of Iowans, I will do so, but again, it will be based on data and metrics that are provided to me by the experts through the Department of Public Health.”
She stressed the term “shelter in place” does not mean any state’s orders are different or stronger than what is being done in Iowa.
As to the metrics presented Thursday by Medical Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the governor highlighted they are developed in daily consultation with Dr. Pedati’steam of epidemiologists in the Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology, a bureau within the Division of Acute Disease Prevention, Emergency Response, & Environmental Health, and other experts in Iowa and across the country.
That includes local public health administrators and their teams, local emergency managers, clinical personnel and EMS providers, as well as the Iowa Infectious Disease Advisory Council, which includes physicians and experts from across Iowa including a number of infectious disease and emergency medicine physicians. Additionally, she said Dr. Pedatiparticipates in weekly calls with state epidemiologists from across the country and the CDC’s incident command team.
“The kind of work that we do to prepare health care providers, health care facilities and public health is work that has been going on for a long time,” Dr. Pedati said. “And we continue to integrate new information and take new approaches from the local level, from partners that we hear from here, from our neighboring states, from our federal experts and from the experience of others in the world to help us make those systems better every day so that we’re equipped to respond to and care for Iowans.”
Sarah Reisetter, Deputy Director of The Iowa Department of Public Health, shed some light on a regional map that was shared in Thursday’s briefing, and why officials look at the state from a regional perspective.
According to Reisetter, the roots of the map are from the 9/11 attacks and subsequent anthrax threats that led to the establishment of federal health preparedness program and hospital preparedness programs to provide funding to states to support public health and hospital planning for public health emergencies.
The Iowa Department of Public Health has been the lead in distributing these funds, she explained, with over half of the funding given to local agencies and hospitals, as well as to help fund the State Hygienic Lab.
Those agencies coordinate efforts and conduct regular exercises to test the healthcare system’s capacity to move patients and equipment in the case where a particular hospital becomes overwhelmed, and the region map mirrors the healthcare coalition service areas developed by the Iowa Department of Public Health in 2016 to strengthen regional coordination for responding to disasters such as the current one.
That map is data-driven based on information that tells the story of where patients in different parts of the state seek medical attention in a health emergency, with contributions from local public health agencies, hospitals, emergency medical services providers and county emergency managers contribute that data.
“The Regional Healthcare Coalition Service Area structure is used for planning purposes and does not limit the ability and need for neighboring counties to continue to coordinate as necessary to provide the appropriate level of care for Iowans,” she said.
As of Friday, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has been notified of 85 additional positive cases of Iowans with COVID-19, for a total of 699 positive cases. There have been a total of 8,764 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs.