DES MOINES, Iowa —
The Iowa Department of Public Health announced another positive case of COVID-19 in the state Friday, bringing the total number in the state to 45.
The latest person to test positive for the coronavirus is from Allamakee County and is a middle-aged adult (41-60).
Gov. Kim Reynolds said she doesn't know how long this pandemic will interrupt our lives. She did say the best way to lessen the impact though, is to follow CDC guidelines by practicing social distancing.
"I believe if we do that, we are going to get through this sooner rather than later," Reynolds said. "Those tough decisions that we've made on the frontend will have a big impact on the length of this and how we deal with it."
As of noon Friday, the State Hygienic Lab had testing supplies on hand to test 620 people.
It was also announced the national labs testing for COVID-19 in Iowa will now be reporting both positive and negative results to the state. Before, they were going to only be reporting positive tests.
"That's really important so that we're able to track Iowa's results regardless of where the tests are being done," Reynolds said.
Shelter-in-place order isn't on the table
While states like California, Illinois and New York have implemented shelter orders and orders for people working in non-essential roles to stay home, Reynolds said as of Friday, she isn't looking to do that here.
"The decisions that I have made are based on the data that the Department of Public Health provides us in consultation with the CDC," Reynolds said.
Reynolds said she's also in constant communication with other states. She said that's helpful, especially when talking to governors from states with a high number of cases.
"I also was on another call last night with governors across the states," Reynolds said. "Those have been extremely valuable because it allows me to -- it allows all of us to see what's happening in other states. Many times one state like Washington or California or New York, they're at a different place than we are. They can talk about things like the timing and when you do what you do and some of the numbers they're seeing and how we can, again, slow and spread that peak out."
Right now, non-essential retail stores still allowed to operate in Iowa. Bars and restaurants have been ordered to prohibit dine-in services.
Friday, Local 5's Chief Political Correspondent Rachel Droze asked if Reynolds if she would consider ordering non-essential retailers to close in Iowa.
"We're evaluating other areas that we need to take into account," Reynolds said. "There will probably be, in the next couple of days, there will be additional items that will be added to the health emergency declaration. A lot of our retail stores have already made the decision to close. Some have not. They have the opportunity, again, to practice social distancing, but we continue to evaluate other industries and sectors that we have not asked to close."
You can now, temporarily, buy alcohol at drive-thrus
Reynolds expanded her State Public Health Emergency Disaster Declaration Friday.
In the latest proclamation, the governor announced temporary suspensions of penalties or interest for not paying property taxes on time. She also suspended certain evictions during the public health emergency.
The governor's order also extended relief to restaurants and bars who aren't allowed to have people dine-in because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Establishments with a Class C liquor license can sell unopened bottles of wine or alcoholic liquor off-site, via drive-thru or through carry-out until 11:59 p.m. on March 31.
Other details in the declaration:
- A commercial truck driver, if a request is made, must be given 34 consecutive hours off if the driver has been on duty for more than 70 hours during an eight-day period
- Temporary state employee regulations for hours worked per fiscal year have been suspended
- Schools will not have to adhere to state regulations of having at least four fire drills and four tornado drills during the school year with at least two of each type being held between Jan. 1 and June 30
Iowans file 'unprecedented' number of unemployment claims
To help Iowans that have lost their jobs or cannot work because of COVID-19, unemployment benefit rules have been temporarily changed in Iowa.
"We are seeing an unprecedented amount of claims," Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend said. "We will release them next week. It's pretty staggering to see the number of claims. What we are seeing on a daily basis is what we would receive in a busy month."
People filing for unemployment can expect to receive payments within 7-10 days after they file their claim.
Claims filed and identified as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 will not be charged to employers. Fact-finding interviews for these claims will be waived, but employers will still be notified.
"If you are laid off due to COVID-19, if you need to stay home to self-isolate or to care for family members or children due to illness related to COVID-19 or because of school and daycare closures, you can receive unemployment benefits provided you meet the other eligibility requirements," Townsend said.
If you call the Iowa Workforce Development customer assistance line, anticipate waiting on hold for about 20-30 minutes.
Townsend said Iowa Workforce Development is training 162 existing employees to help answer unemployment-related calls. Those people will start in their new roles Monday.
To find more information on filing for unemployment benefits, click here.
To apply for unemployment benefits in Iowa, click here.
The number for Iowa Workforce Development unemployment benefits customer assistance is 866-239-0843.
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.