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Gov. Reynolds signs final COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, will expire Feb. 15

The governor's first proclamation, signed in March 2020, shut down bars and restaurants due to the prevalence of coronavirus in the state.

IOWA, USA — Iowa will soon be without a COVID-19 public health emergency declaration for the first time in nearly two years.

Gov. Kim Reynolds' office announced Thursday that a final extension has been signed, but the proclamation comes to an end on Feb. 15 at 11:59 p.m.

The governor's first proclamation, signed in March 2020, shut down bars and restaurants due to the prevalence of coronavirus in the state. The remaining elements are mostly regulatory provisions for employees and employers, her office said.

In a statement Thursday, Reynolds said:

“We cannot continue to suspend duly enacted laws and treat COVID-19 as a public health emergency indefinitely. After two years, it’s no longer feasible or necessary. The flu and other infectious illnesses are part of our everyday lives, and coronavirus can be managed similarly. State agencies will now manage COVID-19 as part of normal daily business, and reallocate resources that have been solely dedicated to the response effort to serve other important needs for Iowans.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health website used to publish virus data — including testing, cases and deaths —  will be "decommissioned," according to a release.

The site reports 8,657 COVID-19 death, 794 hospitalizations and 109 long-term care facility outbreaks as of Wednesday.

“While our COVID-19 reporting will look different, Iowans should rest assured that the state health department will continue to review and analyze COVID-19 and other public health data daily, just as we always have,” said IDPH Director Kelly Garcia in a statement. 

Garcia said the reporting work continues but will shift to move Iowa closer to "existing reporting standards for other respiratory viruses." 

The announcement says the Test Iowa at Home program will continue, but its future may also change. 

"As testing supply increases and more options for self-testing becoming available, the state will reassess the need for the program," the release adds.

Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) said in a statement: "I also want us to get back to normal. But the Governor cannot, with the stroke of her pen, simply proclaim that normalcy."

Garcia added that the end of the pandemic could be in sight. 

"So endemic, there are a lot of focus on the definition of endemic. Yes, ultimately, that will be the case," she said. "We're not quite there yet because that means steady, right. And we're still we're on the downside of a peak."

The Polk County Health Department weighed in with a different perspective.

"COVID-19 remains extremely high in Polk County and the Polk County Health Department will continue to take all steps necessary to protect the health and wellbeing of our residents," said Nola Aigner Davis, communications officer for the department.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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