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Four new COVID-19 cases in Floyd County; governor to open movie theaters, bars and high school activities

By The Associated Press

Iowa movie theaters, museums, zoos and wedding reception venues will reopen Friday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday as she expressed confidence the state can respond if there’s an outbreak.

She also said it’s time for summer school-sponsored activities such as softball and baseball to resume as of June 1.

In Floyd county, four new COVID-19 positive test results were reported Thursday, according to state figures, bringing the total number of positives to 15. A total of 624 tests have been reported as of Thursday afternoon. Fifteen positives out of 624 is a positive test result rate of 2.4%.

Previous to the four new cases announced Thursday there had not been a positive test result in Floyd County since May 15.

One person died of the disease in Floyd County, reported on May 2, and five people are listed as recovered as of Thursday.

Reynolds announced that also reopening in time for Memorial Day activities are state campground restrooms, showers and cabins. Camping will be allowed for tents and all campers, but playgrounds, shelters and visitor centers remain closed.

Reynolds said bars can reopen next week at 50% capacity.

She said the state’s testing capability allows officials to track and respond to any outbreaks that may occur.

Reynolds said she believes new cases and death reports are stabilizing, although the state continues to typically see around 200 to 300 new positive cases a day and a dozen deaths.

“We’ve demonstrated we have the resources to manage any type of an uptick or surge,” she said.

Casinos were not included in the governor’s plans, and Reynolds said conversations are underway with the industry to determine how they might reopen.

On Thursday, state officials outline guidance on reopening schools

During Thursday’s press conference, Reynolds highlighted Wednesday’s announcement on various restrictions being lifted. “Perhaps the most anticipated of all was that school-sponsored activities will be permitted to resume,” she said. “Closing Iowa schools through the end of the normal school year was one of the toughest decisions I have made these last 11 weeks. For me, nothing signifies getting back to normal more than getting kids reconnected to their schools.”

In addition to the resumption of summer sports, approved activities include summer school, academic enrichment programs and activity-based camps, such as STEM and drama. However, the resumption of school activities comes with increased guidance.

“Schools may provide learning using online and other distance learning approaches, but they may now also choose to provide on-site learning opportunities in accordance with certain public health precautions as outlined in new guidance,” said Dr. Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education.

“While schools can begin to offer summer learning opportunities and activities on June 1, there’s much planning and preparation to make that possible,” said Reynolds.

Lebo said additional mitigation measures include screening students and staff upon arrival, teaching and reinforcing proper hand-washing, developing and increasing cleaning and disinfection schedules, and distancing students and staff during instruction time by limiting group sizes, increasing spacing and limiting mixing between groups.

Those guidelines follow guidance recently released by the CDC. Other measures recommended by the CDC include the use of face coverings among all staff and encouraging the same use by students if feasible; closing communal spaces such as cafeterias — instead serving meals in classrooms — and playgrounds if possible or otherwise staggering their use and disinfecting between uses; staggering arrival and drop-off times or locations; and creating distance between children on school buses where possible.

Limited sharing is also highlighted in the CDC guidance. They recommend keeping each child’s belongings separated in individual containers or cubbies; ensuring adequate supplies “to minimize sharing of high-touch materials” such as art supplies; and avoiding sharing electronic devices, toys, books and other games or learning tools.

“It is important to note this guidance is intended to serve as a starting point for districts as we take our first steps to open for students,” Lebo said, adding that they are specific to “moments in time as we transition through phases in reopening based on virus activity.”

A flow chart provided by the CDC offers guidance on what schools should consider before reopening. Questions include whether reopening is consistent with applicable state and local orders, if the school is ready to protect children and employees at increased risk for severe illness and about the ability to screen students and employees upon arrival. It also highlights the promotion of hygiene practices and intensified cleaning and disinfecting as well as encouraging social distancing. The final section looks at ongoing monitoring.

“Whether a school chooses to provide in-person learning opportunities over the summer is a local decision that should be made based on the needs of the communities and in consultation with local public health officials,” Lebo said. “I am excited for what this summer will mean for our schools and families in Iowa.”