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News 11.17.20: New IA Restrictions, High Hospitalizations and Surge in COVID-19 Cases and Deaths


The Iowa Department of Public reports 35 more deaths due to complications of COVID-19 in the past 24-hours and more than 3,500 new cases.  Plus, the state set another record for hospitalizations linked to the virus.

At a news conference today, Governor Kim Reynolds says if current trends don’t change more restrictions will be put in place to prevent the spread of the virus and ease the health care surge. 

Credit Associated Press

“So, I’m asking Iowans again, it’s not where we want to be.  But we need everyone to step up and do the right thing and if we do this we will accomplish the goals we’re looking at.  That’s keeping our businesses open, keeping our kids in school and make sure our hospitals have the capacity to treat people with COVID and other health issues.”

She says the number of patients hospitalized across the state has doubled since the start of the month. Locally, Sioux City’s hospitals saw an increase of 20% from 75 to 94 patients.  That almost mirrors the high set in late May.

Last night, Reynolds issued extra health measures, including requiring masks in all public and state buildings when people are within 6 feet of each other 15 minutes or longer.  The CDC acknowledges even brief exposure can lead to transmission.  Reynolds did admit it would be hard for officers to enforce the restrictions

CDC close contact update and information can be found here.

There are also limitations that apply to weddings and funerals.

Youth sporting events are prohibited, except high school, college and professional sports.

Restaurants and bars must close at 10 p.m. 

Plus, elective surgeries are limited to 50%.

A summary of requirements can be found here.

Reynolds says masks are effective with other mitigation measures like hand washing, social distancing and staying home when sick.  And, if people are confused about the new requirements they should wear masks to error on the side of caution.

“Listen, people do need to step up and take personal responsibility. And, I said, if you can’t social distance and you’re going to be in a prolonged interaction with an individual with a person for 15 minutes then you are required to wear a mask.  That’s what is in the proclamation, that’s the expectation.”

Reynolds also stressed the need for donations of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients.  The plasma from donors who have recovered from COVID-19 contains antibodies to the disease.   Christine Hayes with Lifeserve Blood Center says the current supply would only cover patients until December 1st.

Iowa has surpassed 2,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus, as the number of residents succumbing to the virus continues to rapidly increase.

Iowa marked 1,000 deaths from the virus on Aug. 19, five months into the pandemic.

But it took less than three months for the state to reach 2,000 deaths, and 3,000 will be reached far quicker under current trends.

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that the state has been averaging more than 20 deaths per day over the last week. That’s triple the rate from just two months ago. 

Credit Siouxland District Health Department

There’s one more death in Woodbury County, a man between the ages of 41 and 60 years old for a total of 109 deaths and 42 new cases. 

Siouxland District Health reports 94 hospitalizations at Sioux City’s two hospitals with 66 due to COVID-19 only. 

The 14-day positivity rate for Woodbury County is down slightly at 23.3%.  All but a half dozen of Iowa’s 99 counties are above the 15% threshold that shows wide community spread.  Monona County is the only one below that benchmark at 13.6%.  Lyon County has the highest rate in northwest Iowa at 36.2%. Jones is number one in the state at 49.4%. 

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the longest-serving Republican senator, says he is quarantining after being exposed to the coronavirus. Grassley is 87. He did not say how he was exposed. He said he would follow doctor’s orders and “immediately quarantine” and work virtually as he waits for results of a test. The Iowa Republican is the president pro tempore of the Senate, meaning he presides over the Senate in the absence of Vice President Mike Pence and is third in the line of presidential succession.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts urged people to stay home if they have symptoms, even if they tested negative for the virus.  He told people to avoid the three C’s in a news conference this afternoon; crowded places, close contact and confined spaces.  

The White House Task Force says Nebraska’s spread is “unyielding" and serious action is needed from leaders.  Ricketts says so far a mandate isn’t needed.  In the past he said if if hospitalizations continue to rise he will impose additional measures to limit the spread of the virus.
The Task Force showed wide community spread throughout the state of Iowa.
The number of coronavirus cases in Nebraska topped 100,000 as the state reported a record 3,440 cases Monday. Nebraska has had 101,601 cases since the pandemic began. There were also eighteen new deaths reported Monday to give the state 797 deaths. The number of people hospitalized with the virus in the state also set a new record at 938. Gov. Pete Ricketts has said that if that number continues to rise and approaches 1,200 — when 25% of the hospitalized patients in the state have coronavirus — he will impose additional restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has shown no signs of budging from her hands-off approach to the pandemic. But she is among a dwindling number of Midwest governors holding out against mask mandates. She also faces a death rate in her state that has risen to the highest in the nation this month. South Dakota has reported 219 deaths in November. That is about a third of all its deaths over the course of the entire pandemic. The governor’s spokeswoman Maggie Seidel pushed back against arguments by public health experts that a mask mandate would dramatically reduce the spread of the virus

Sioux Falls is moving closer to adopting a mask mandate after turning one down last week.  Two council members who voted against the plan now say they will support a mandate after removing a penalty for violating the mandate.

The Argus Leader reports the update has been put on the agenda of tonight’s city council meeting.  Last week the mayor broke a 4-to-4 tie turning down the mandate at the time.

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