Reynolds in “modified quarantine” after COVID exposure at White House
Gov Kim Reynolds’ daily press briefing had a sparser look Monday, as it was held with no members of the press actually present. Reynolds is following stricter social distancing guidelines due to her exposure to COVID-19 last week. The press asked questions by phone.
Reynolds reported she was notified during the weekend that Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, was present when Reynolds was at the White House last Wednesday. Reynolds said she had no contact with Miller, but she’ll follow a modified quarantine plan.
She will have her temperature checked at the State Emergency Operation Center (SEOC) at Camp Dodge (Johnston) each day when she arrives to do the press briefing. That step was already in place. She will be tested daily for COVID-19, and will begin wearing a mask at SEOC during personal interactions, which she said will be “minimal.” Most of the governor’s staff will work from home during the quarantine, and she plans to work from home as she can.
“These steps are similar to what I’ve asked all Iowans to do if they’ve had contact with someone known to have the virus,” she said. “While I didn’t have direct contact with the vice president’s staff member, it’s important that I do my part to protect those around me, while continuing to serve as your governor,” she said.
Reynolds provided an update on areas of the state that have been COVID hotspots. Linn and Johnson counties have stabilized and are numbers are trending downward in the last two weeks, “a good sign the virus activity is decreasing and becoming more manageable,” according to the governor. Nearby Washington and Louisa counties are also seeing decreases.
Black Hawk County is “showing positive signs of stabilizing”, she said. She told of targeting testing as a response to suspected COVID activity, and noted that as of Friday, 9,400 employees have been tested in 14 manufacturing facilities, and 1,324 residents and employees at long term care facilities have been tested. She expects 3,000 employees of manufacturing facilities will be tested this week. “Expanding testing in a targeted way helps us confirm how the virus is spreading, and while it drives our positive case count up for the short term, more importantly it informs us how to effectively manage virus activity for the long term,” she said.
She said virus activity is increasing central and western Iowa. Iowa Department of Public Health is monitoring the situation and sending strike teams and more testing resources where necessary. In the Sioux City area, surveillance testing and strike teams are being sent to long term care and manufacturing facilities. Another Test Iowa site was opened in Crawford County on Saturday.
Hospitalizations are increasing in the Regional Medical Coordination Centers in western Iowa. Reynolds said IDPH is monitoring resources and is ready to assist healthcare systems as needed.
“We know that virus activity will exist in our communities until a vaccine is available, but through expanded and targeted testing, case investigation and tracing, and by continuing to take preventive measures to protect our own health and the health of others, I believe we can contain and manage the virus and balance the health of Iowans with the health of our economy,” she said.
Reynolds said during the Q & A that she’ll announce on Tuesday which parts of the public health disaster declaration she will allow to expire May 15, this Friday. There are other parts set to expire May 30. “We’ll be addressing that tomorrow. As we take a look at what’s happening across the state and we’re able to use the data and the experiences and the strategies that we put in place, to help us inform the decisions we make going forward.”
She said she’s been impressed with the responsibility Iowans have taken on their own for social distancing and use of face covers. “We can continue, I think, to lessen the restrictions and open up our state and start to begin in a very thoughtful, safe, and purposeful way to continue to reopen our economy,” she said.
Lt Gov Adam Gregg streamed into the press briefing to provide an update on the Feed Iowa task force he is leading. The task force has focused on raising the profile of food insecurity issues and connecting Iowans to needed resources. He said the Iowa National Guard has provided staff and logistical support, and that 311 Americorps members have been reassigned to COVDI-19 response, with most of them in food insecurity projects. The state plans to add Americorps summer positions.
He also talked briefly about the Pass the Pork initiative in which pork producers donate hogs, which are then processed primarily at smaller meat lockers. The ground pork is then donated to food pantries. Cash donations are covering the cost of the processing. As of May 5, 4,280 pounds of ground pork have been delivered, he said.
The state has received a shipment of the experimental COVID1- treatment remdesiver, and the first question from the press (by phone) was how that would be distributed. IDPH is working on distribution. Recipients will be prioritized by who will receive the most benefit from it. Physicians treating patients with the drug will be put in contact with others who have experience with it.
To a question about the outlook for holding county fairs and the Iowa State Fair, Reynolds answered that it’s too soon to know.
IDPH reported on coronavirus.iowa.gov that as of Sunday at 11:59 pm 12,373 Iowans have tested positive for COVID-19; 19 percent of them have been age 61 or older. There have been 271 deaths from the illness. Eighty-seven percent of the deaths have been in adults 61 or older.
The number of positive cases in Greene County remains at 13.