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Gov. Reynolds announces new mitigation efforts

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced mask requirements and limits to gatherings in response to rising COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations across the state during a virtual address Monday.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced mask requirements and limitations on gatherings with a few catches during a live address on Monday.

Starting Tuesday, when anyone is in an indoor public space, masks are required to be worn, but only if they are unable to socially distance and are in-person for more than 15 minutes. Indoor gatherings are limited to 15 people and outdoor events are limited to 30. This includes weddings and funerals.

Mask rules apply to visitors and employees at state buildings as well, but gathering limits do not apply to regular workplace activity.

All youth and adult sports activities of any size are suspended, with the exception of collegiate, high school and professional sports. Spectators at sporting events are limited to two people per student, athlete or performer.

Restaurants and bars are required to close in-person services at 10 p.m. Carry out after this time is allowed. Groups of eight or more are not to be seated together unless all members are from the same household.

Reynolds said these measures will be reevaluated next week and more measures could be added if necessary.

This comes after more than 52,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported in the last two weeks. Reynolds emphasized the impact of the current wave of novel COVID-19 infections has had on health care systems in Iowa.

One in four hospital patients in Iowa has COVID-19.

“Our health care system is being pushed to the brink,” Reynolds said. “If the health care system exceeds capacity it’s not just COVID-19 we’ll be fighting. Every Iowan who needs medical care will be put at risk. If hospital beds are full, a loved one who suffers a heart attack or stroke may have to be transported miles away to receive life saving treatment.”

“It’s not just the emergencies that are of concern,” she said. “Routine procedures to catch cancer at early stages will likely be postponed, turning a treatable disease into a terminal diagnosis.”

She said the 52,000 cases in the last two weeks is equal to the cases recorded in Iowa from the beginning of the pandemic through mid August. Less than one month ago about 100 people were being hospitalized with COVID-19 per day. It was the first time Iowa had reached that rate. That rate has climbed to more than 200 hospitalizations per day and growing for about a week.

“No one wants to do this. I don’t want to do this,” Reynolds said. “Im asking you tonight to work with me. Think of your family and your friends and your fellow Iowans. Think of the healthcare heroes that have been taking care of us since the beginning of this pandemic.”

While the proclamation is a slight change of course from Reynolds’ “Iowans will do the right thing” approach which she has repeated during her weekly press conferences, she said there are limits to the ability to enforce any mandates.

“There isn’t enough law enforcement in the country to make sure that every Iowan is wearing a mask when they should. There aren’t enough sheriffs in Iowa’s 99 counties to shut down every noncompliant bar,” she said. “If Iowans don’t buy into this we lose. Businesses will close once again. More schools will be forced to go online. Our health care system will fail and the cost on human life will be high.”

Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer said he is encouraged by Reynolds’ proclamation but shares her concern over the challenges of enforcing such policies.

“I congratulate her for getting to the point where she mandates masks around the whole state,” Greer said. “I personally think the 15 minutes – you’re going to have a hard time enforcing or watching that. If you can’t socially distance for two minutes you should have a mask on.”

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Contact Joe Fisher at 641-753-6611 or jfisher@timesrepublican.com

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