Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ ongoing efforts to scale back COVID-19 mitigation guidelines to cautiously mark a gradual reopening of the state’s economy were expanded Wednesday to include all 99 counties, up from the previous total of 77 counties.
The expansion came at a time when health officials here were predicting that Pottawattamie County will not see a peak in the number of cases attributed to the current COVID-19 pandemic before next month.
That was followed on Friday by news of an outbreak at a local memory care facility where 10 residents and an employee tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Although that facility, Country House, 1831 E. Kanesville Blvd., is not considered a long-term care facility by the state of Iowa, the county is responding to the outbreak in the same manner it would respond to an outbreak in a long-term care facility.
“Country House adapted several COVID-19 mitigation measures early on, including restricting visitors, use of PPE and screening staff on all shifts,” Pottawattamie County Health Director Matt Wyant said. “Despite their precautionary efforts, the virus has regrettably been introduced to Country House.”
This latest outbreak, coming at a time when the number of positive cases continues to rise in the county, offers a stark reminder that the relaxation of mitigation efforts by the governor must be accompanied by ongoing vigilance and care on the part of residents.
The gradual reopening of Iowa’s economy did not and should not include any lessening of the social distancing standards that have, for many, become a critical part of the “new normal.” Opening Iowa’s economy does nothing to change the recommendation to wear facial coverings when residents are out in public. Gatherings should still be limited to a maximum of 10 people who will hopefully maintain social distancing standards.
Reynolds was steadfast in encouraging all vulnerable Iowans, including those with pre-existing medical conditions and those older than 65, in all 99 counties to continue to limit their activities outside of their home, including their visits to businesses and other establishments and their participation in gatherings of any size or for any reason.
She encouraged all Iowans to limit their in-person interactions with vulnerable Iowans and to exercise particular care and caution when engaging in any necessary interactions. Iowans who do not feel well should simply stay home.
While there are growing indications that we are moving forward, albeit slowing, in the battle against this unseen enemy, the battle is far from over. With no vaccine available, our best defenses are still the simple acts of social distancing, wearing a mask when we’re out, limiting the size of gatherings and staying home when possible.
Ignoring those simple but effective common-sense guidelines will almost certainly result in the continued spread of the disease.