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'Many of the steps we have taken are equivalent to stay-at-home orders': Gov. Reynolds basing COVID-19 mitigation efforts on Iowa data

Iowa's governor said everyone who can stay at home, should, but she's not ordering them to do so.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Public Health announced an additional 21 cases of COVID-19 Wednesday morning, the total reaching 145. Negative tests total to 2,578. 

Officials announced the first death in Iowa Tuesday evening. The individual was 61 to 80-years-old and from Dubuque County.

RELATED: IDPH announces first COVID-19 related death in Iowa 

Why hasn't Iowa ordered non-essential residents to stay home? 

Gov. Kim Reynolds said everyone who can stay home, should, but she isn't making it an official order. 

Reynolds and her administration continue to defend their decision to not issue a shelter-in-place order while neighboring states, such as Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin, are.

"We're seeing some states issue shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, causing some to ask, 'Why not Iowa.'" Reynolds said. "In fact, many of the steps we have taken are equivalent to stay-at-home orders that we are seeing in several of these states like closing schools and some businesses, implementing work from home and distant learning and reducing gatherings to ten people."

Reynolds said her administration closely monitors the data coming out of Iowa when making mitigation strategy decisions. 

"It's important also that we keep Iowa open for business in a responsible way that protects the health of our people and our economy," Reynolds said. 

Reynolds said ordering a full shelter-in-place if data doesn't prove it's needed could potentially hurt the supply chain of needed medical equipment and put unneeded stress on essential workers. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health takes the following factors into account when determining what steps need to be taken to slow the spread of COVID-19:

  • Percentage of the population 65 years and older
  • Percentage of identified cases requiring hospitalization
  • Rate of infection per 100,000 Iowans in the past 14 days
  • Number of outbreaks in settings like long-term care facilities where older populations and those with underlying health conditions live

Protective gear for health care workers is still hard to find

Supplies needed to protect health care workers from the coronavirus are still in short supply. 

Wednesday, Reynolds announced the state got in a shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE). The Iowa National Guard is working to deliver the PPE to where it's needed most. 

"The Iowa National Guard conducted 26 missions yesterday, 23 are happening today and more are planned for tomorrow," Reynolds said. "These are going to counties across the state. As we said all along, there is a national shortage of PPE so this isn't everything that's needed, but we continue to work with our federal partners and our suppliers and as soon as the product comes in, we are getting it out where it is needed the most."

Joyce Flinn, director of Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management, detailed some items the state is working to get. 

"We're buying lots of gowns, lots of gloves, swabs, test kits," Flinn said. "We have some ventilators on order. I believe it's a very small number because they're very hard to find, but we are looking at everything."

Wednesday, the governor's office said Iowa has 280 ventilators available and not in use. The state is working with health care providers to convert anesthesia machines into ventilators, which the CDC recommended. 

Reynolds' message to those filing for unemployment

Friday, state officials said their unemployment offices are being inundated with calls. 

"We are seeing an unprecedented amount of claims," Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend said at Friday's coronavirus briefing.

The state has taken steps to make it easier for Iowans to file for unemployment for those impacted by COVID-19. 

They've waived certain requirements for those that have been laid off due to COVID-19. They've also waived charges for employers for all unemployment claims filed and paid as a result of COVID-19.

Those calling Iowa Workforce Development to ask questions about filing claims are finding long wait times. 

"To those Iowans who are out of work and have been unable to apply for unemployment online, we hear you," Reynolds said. 

Reynolds said her team is working to make those wait times shorter. 

You're also able to apply for benefits online. Click here for information on how to do that.

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. 

Local 5 is On Your Side to answer your questions on the coronavirus. Text your questions to 515-457-1026message us on Facebook/Twitter or send an email to news@weareiowa.com. 

RELATED: Positive COVID-19 cases in Iowa reaches 145; over 2,500 negative tests