Iowa officials said Monday that an analysis of the latest data on the spread of COVID-19 indicates the state is “not quite” at the point where a stay-at-home order is needed.
The number of Iowans who have tested positive for COVID-19 rose to 124 as of Tuesday, based on results reported to Iowa Department of Public Health. Four were in Washington County and 37 in Johnson County.
At a press conference Monday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and public health officials said they’re relying on hospitalization data to indicate if, and when, a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order is necessary.
Reynolds said state officials are constantly reviewing and re-evaluating that data.
“We had a group that was working on that last night and continued to work on it through the day,” she said. “We want to make sure we make these decisions based on data and based on metrics so that we can be consistent in what we’re telling Iowans – to make sure that we’re not shutting down a state where we don’t need to.”
She added: “So we need to be factual, we need to be reasonable and we need to be consistent in the message that we’re providing Iowans.”
Asked exactly what sort of data the state is relying on to make sure it’s staying ahead of the situation, Sarah Reisetter, the deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, said there is “a range of information” that is being collected and analyzed.
“They include things like rate of hospitalizations for patients who might test positive, length of hospital stays for those patients, the average age of a population in a certain area, certainly the density of a population,” she said. “As we have done all along throughout this response, as soon as the Department of Public Health comes across information and reaches a conclusion that more aggressive community-mitigation requirements or guidelines are necessary, we will advise Gov. Reynolds about that immediately.
“And so we just – we haven’t quite gotten there yet,” Reisetter said. “And we hope that by people just staying home, especially when they’re ill, that we will be able to prevent some of those more strict mitigation measures. But we’re prepared to make that recommendation when the data shows us that it’s time.”
Asked what sites in Iowa have been identified to assist with hospitals in case they are overwhelmed, Reynolds said, “They are working through all of that. We have a team in place that is working, really focusing on what we see might be some hot spots across the state so that we make sure we can stand them up in the areas that need to be stood up. But those kinds of discussions and decisions are taking place throughout the day so that we have the right response in place should we ever get to that place.”
Reynolds announced that the state is launching a $4 million effort to assist small businesses with grants and tax relief tied to COVID-19 losses.
The grants will range from $5,000 to $25,000 and be made available to companies with two to 25 employees. Also, the Iowa Department of Revenue has extended the sales- and withholding-tax deadlines for any business that receives a grant, and it will consider an extension for any business that applies for a grant.
Iowa Workforce Development will allow businesses with fewer than 50 employees to delay, until July 31, their unemployment-tax payments for the first quarter of the year.
“These three actions will provide some much-needed relief for struggling small businesses, as well as some help with cash flow,” Reynolds said.
Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter Linh Ta contributed to this story.