Iowa Coronavirus cases now 145; hospitalizations rise to 23

Johnson County hospital leaders not seeking shelter in place


DES MOINES — The leaders of two large hospitals in the Iowa county with the most coronavirus cases said Wednesday that they’re not pushing for a shelter-in-place order as imposed elsewhere, even as the coronavirus becomes more prevalent in the state.

Johnson County accounts for 43 of the state’s 145 positive cases, but Brooks Jackson, dean of the University of Iowa’s medical college and its vice president for medical affairs, said an order to stay in place may not be needed.

Jackson said Johnson County is younger and healthier than the overall population, has little mass transit and has far less population density than larger cities.

He said a shelter-in-place order would be “very disruptive” economically and would potentially threaten the supply chains and staffing needs of hospitals. Small businesses that provide key services might be forced to shut down, he said.

Sean Williams, the CEO of Mercy Hospital in Iowa City, said an across-the-board shelter in place “would create many unintended consequences that would hamper our ability to provide care.”

“Anything that increases the anxiety or causes folks to feel more panic about the situation should be avoided,” Williams said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Other local elected officials, including Linn County Board of Supervisors Chairman Stacey Walker and Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart, continued to press the governor to issue a stay-at-home order. They argued that such a measure, if adopted now, could save lives by preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Jackson said public health officials should not rule out such an order, saying such a “drastic” step could be necessary if the situation gets worse.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she evaluates such decisions on a daily basis, considering where positive cases are reported and how concentrated the cases are in a specific region.

“A lot of the things that we’ve already implemented are included in the shelter-in-place orders that states are putting in place, she said, adding: “What’s the benefit from taking that additional step?”

The number of Iowans who have tested positive for the coronavirus increased by 21 to 145, she said Wednesday.

Data released by the Iowa Department of Public Health said 23 Iowans are hospitalized with COVID-19, while 12 more have been released and are recovering at home. The virus is now in 31 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Johnson and Linn County — home to Iowa City and Cedar Rapids — have agreed to jointly issue a local order if that becomes necessary, Johnson County Public Health Director Dave Koch said.

Jackson said University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is providing follow-up treatment to about 40 coronavirus patients, including five who are in the hospital. Williams said Mercy has two inpatients who have tested positive and that it is treating others who are awaiting results.

On Tuesday evening Reynolds announced the state’s first death from the viral disease. An adult between 61 and 80 years old in Dubuque County died.

Testing shows that of the 145 people who have tested positive, 81 are women and 64 are men.