White House again urges mask mandate, bar closures to fight coronavirus in much of Iowa
Federal experts told Iowa officials this week that although the state’s coronavirus pandemic has stabilized to a degree, Iowa continues to have one of the worst outbreaks in the country.
The White House coronavirus task force sent a report Sunday saying Iowa had the third-highest rate of new cases in the country over the previous week. That ranking was a dip from a week earlier, when Iowa had the nation's steepest rate of new coronavirus cases.
The White House experts have been sending weekly reports to state officials, advising them on how to curb their coronavirus outbreaks. The Iowa Department of Public Health released its copy of the Sept. 6 report to the Des Moines Register on Wednesday.
The latest report says Iowa saw 189 new confirmed cases per 100,000 people in the previous week. That rate was down from 232 per 100,000 the week before, but it remained more than double the national average.
The White House experts recommended requiring Iowans to wear masks in cities and counties where students or teachers in kindergarten through high school have been infected. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has rebuffed such recommendations, saying that although she recommends Iowans wear masks in public places, she thinks mandates are unenforceable.
The report also says "bars must be closed" in 61 counties.
The new federal report says testing shows 32 Iowa counties and 12 metro areas were considered “red zones,” up from 28 counties and 10 metro areas the week before. A red zone is defined as having more than 100 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents and seeing more than 10% positive results among people being tested for the virus.
Twenty-nine Iowa counties and nine metro areas are listed as “yellow zones,” according to the report, meaning they had between 10 and 100 new confirmed cases per 100,000 population and saw 5% to 10% positive results among people being tested for the virus.
More than 95% of Iowa hospitals had daily reports of confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients last week, the report shows.
Reynolds last month ordered bars closed in six Iowa counties, but she allowed restaurants to stay open. A Des Moines Register spot check found that despite Reynolds’ order, numerous Des Moines restaurants were allowing customers to sit and drink without ordering food, and some bars were remaining open by offering food but not requiring customers to buy it.
The new White House report says Iowa should reduce restaurant capacity to 25% of normal in red zones and to 50% capacity in yellow zones. The report also says the state should use rapid testing equipment to monitor infections among teachers, nursing-home staff members and emergency first responders.
Tony Leys covers health care for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-284-8449.
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