Gov. Kim Reynolds

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (right) & Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter (left)

(Des Moines) -- Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is extending closures of restaurants and bars and is shutting the doors on a number of retail businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor announced Thursday that she is expanding the state's disaster health proclamation to close all retail stores through April 7th -- including book stores, clothing and shoe stores, jewelry stores, luggage stores, cosmetic, perfume and beauty supply stores, furniture stores, florists and home furnishing stores. Reynolds also extended the moratorium on dine-in restaurants and bars until April 7th.

"We haven't actually made it through the first incubation period, so we haven't even really been able to gather the data about the decisions that we made early on to see if we started to bend the curve," said Reynolds. "I said earlier this week that we are going to continue to see the numbers rise this week. We're also monitoring people who returned back home from spring break. As we've said, if you've traveled outside of the state, we would recommend that you do a self-isolation for 14 days. If you have an employer, you might want to talk to them before going back to work, because a lot of them have put recommendations in place to self-isolate for 14 days."

Reynolds' proclamation also stops all non-essential and elective surgeries that can be delayed without undue risk to patients starting at 5 p.m. Friday. She is also canceling all elective dental procedures and requiring health insurance companies to pay providers for virtual appointments.

"To encourage the use of telehealth services to screen and treat individuals who may have the virus, health insurance shall reimburse healthcare providers for telehealth visits at the same rate as in-person visits," said Reynolds.

Reynolds says she is still recommending that schools in the state remain closed through April 13th.

"I said we would reevaluate in two weeks and knowing that we were coming up on that timeline, we did do the evaluation," said Reynolds.  "At this time we recommend that they remain closed until April 13th.  We're continuing to monitor and assess the situation daily.  We continue to work with superintendents across the state."

For Thursday, Reynolds says there were 34 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, bringing the state's total to 179 cases -- 31 of which remain hospitalized. The state has now recorded 2,975 negative tests and currently has the capacity to test 891 individuals. Reynolds says she is still not considering a shelter-in-place order in the state.

"The thing that you need to know is that we do have a plan in place if that does happen and we are ready to go," said Reynolds.  "We're monitoring it and basing it on consistent data points and metrics that we put together.  They continue to reevaluate them to see if there is any additional metrics or factors that need to be a part of those decision points.  We are reevaluating every day.  We'll let Iowans know if we get to a place where we need to do something different."

Reynolds is also encouraging all healthcare facilities -- including nursing homes -- to practice enhanced staff health screenings, which includes taking temperatures before each shift. She also says that she has been in contact with some of the state's larger employers regarding their plans for employee health.

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