DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said Monday that more aggressive orders to halt the movement of Iowans are not needed even though the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise.
Reynolds said the state now has 105 positive cases, an increase of 15 from Sunday. They now span 26 counties. She confirmed for the first time Monday that seven Iowans are hospitalized with the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Reynolds said positive cases are increasing in large part due to expanded testing and the number is likely to grow.
She said state transportation reports show overall traffic on major roadways is down 47% from a year ago, while truck traffic is normal, an indication Iowans have curtailed travel significantly except for those providing essential services.
“At this point we’re not at a place where we’re going to order a shelter in place or a stay at home. We are continuing to evaluate what those metrics look like,” she said, adding she wants to “make sure that we’re not shutting down a state where we don’t need to.”
Sarah Reisetter, the deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, said the rate of hospitalizations, the length of hospital stays, the anticipated spread of the disease within a community and the rate at which people with underlying conditions are becoming infected are among the criteria used when evaluating the severity of measures needed to halt the disease’s spread.
Local officials do have the authority to initiate shelter in place orders if they deem it necessary, Reynolds said.
For most people, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Reynolds also announced an Iowa small business grant and tax deferral program to help businesses maintain operations or reopen after the pandemic emergency passes. Applications will be taken at a website the state has established. Up to $4 million is available from state resources to help immediately.
Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham said state resources are available only to help small businesses remain viable for 30 days until federal funding is released.
“This is a stopgap to basically keep doors open because the first thing we’re dealing with is keeping as many people employed as possible, second is liquidity,” she said.
She said small businesses that rely on daily customer traffic are hurting the most.
On Monday, Collins Aerospace, one of the largest employers in eastern Iowa, confirmed that an employee at one of its locations in Cedar Rapids had tested positive for coronavirus.
The company, which manufactures aviation and military equipment, said the employee was being quarantined and that it had asked others who were in contact with the individual to stay home for 14 days. The company was doing enhanced cleaning of the employee’s work areas and other common areas.
Also Monday, the Iowa Department of Corrections said it is expediting the placement of about 700 prisoners who are approved for parole or work release, according to spokesman Cord Overton. In Scott County, a judge has reduced terms for some elderly inmates some with respiratory issues and some close to finishing their sentences. About 30 inmates were being released early in Black Hawk county, as well.
At a news conference, representatives of the largest cities in Johnson County — Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty — urged their residents to stay home and leave only for essential needs.