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Gov. Reynolds evaluating new mitigation orders as COVID-19 rises in Iowa

By Linh Ta, Iowa Capital Dispatch

Gov. Kim Reynolds said she is re-examining the state’s response to COVID-19 in light of the growing positive cases, particularly among young adults.

Between June 21 to July 5, Reynolds said 82,000 Iowans received COVID-19 tests. About 60% of the positive cases stemmed from adults ages 18 to 40. In comparison, only 21% of middle-aged adults and 2% of the elderly tested positive for the virus.

Reynolds said she is analyzing the state’s seven- and 14-day trends with Dr. Caitlin Pedati to decide whether any additional proclamations are needed to mitigate COVID-19. She gave a coronavirus update during her weekly news conference on Tuesday.

Reynolds said 10 Iowa counties accounted for 65% of recent new cases, including Polk, Johnson, Black Hawk, Scott and Story counties. Reynolds said some of the rising numbers can be attributed to counties with college towns where young adults are more likely to congregate.

She warned that while younger Iowans may feel safe from the more severe symptoms of the virus, the spread will also hurt vulnerable populations. She specifically cited groups gathering in bars, restaurants and protests as ways Iowans are increasing their exposure to COVID-19.

Reynolds said if state officials see “a lot of the increase due to bars, you know, young people attending bars in the evenings,” then she might look at reducing hours or reinstating some of the mitigation efforts on bars.

Last week, Polk County health officials reported an “alarming” 20% increase in infections in Polk and Dallas County over the previous week and urged area residents to practice social-distancing and follow mitigation guidelines.

“Our decisions matter,” Reynolds said.

Beyond college towns, Iowa counties with meatpacking plants are still seeing higher than average COVID-19 rates.

A Washington Post analysis found that only four other counties in America had a higher per capita infection rate than northwestern Iowa’s Buena Vista County, which is home to a Tyson pork processing plant in Storm Lake. As of last week, Buena Vista County had recorded 8,450 infections per 100,000 residents.

Reynolds said she and a team of her staff will examine Iowa’s hospitalizations and available ventilators and beds to determine whether any additional mitigation measures will be needed.

“I’m asking every Iowan to remain vigilant,” Reynolds said.