IOWA, USA — Gov. Kim Reynolds is pushing forward with plans to loosen mitigation efforts and reopen parts of Iowa as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the state.
Reynolds defended the decision to lessen restrictions in 77 of Iowa's 99 counties at her Monday morning press conference. She explained that many counties have experienced a downward trend in the last two weeks.
Restaurants, malls, community events, sporting events and spiritual gatherings are among the first to have restrictions lifted starting Friday, May 1.
However, businesses like restaurants and enclosed malls will only be able to open at 50% capacity. For example, malls won't be able to open food court dining areas, but they can still fulfill carry-out orders.
"Social, community, recreational, and leisure and sporting events will continue to be limited to 10 people, but recognizing the significant constitutional liberties involved, I am lifting the limits on spiritual and religious gatherings," Reynolds said.
Reynolds' office confirmed that churches across the entire state can resume gatherings.
In all cases, businesses and churches that reopen must continue social distancing and other public health measures to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
All other existing closures in the state will be extended through May 15, Reynolds said.
READ: Governor Kim Reynolds' full proclamation to reopen portions of the state with certain restrictions
Reynolds and her administration will continue to monitor all communities before deciding to lift mitigation restrictions.
"As we see downward trends and stabilization in other areas of this state, we will continue to adjust the risk restrictions accordingly," she said.
In total, the following 22 counties in the state are to continue all social distancing restrictions until May 15:
- Black Hawk
- Des Moines
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, praised the governor in a statement on Monday.
Whitver said Reynolds has shown "steady leadership" throughout the pandemic. He said that her decisions haven't been easy to make and that he respects her for that.
"Easing restrictions in counties with no or limited virus activity is a safe and responsible approach to moving forward. Even in those areas, maintaining social distancing and heightened personal hygiene remain as important as now as they were in the early days of the outbreak," his statement said.
Whitver included that he looks forward to the next steps coming in the next days and weeks to "rebuild what was the best economy in the history of this state."
"Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus, the state had strong wage growth, low unemployment, and significant demand for skilled labor. With the policies set in place since 2017, which the legislature will continue to pursue when it returns, I believe Iowa will see that dynamic economy begin to return,” the statement said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends frequent hand washing, avoiding close contact and staying home if you are sick as main areas of focus for prevention and containment of COVID-19.
Watch the full press conference below:
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