Apr 9, 2020
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 9
Governor Kim Reynolds tells Iowans to do what they’re told to do in order to flatten the curve in a press conference on April 9. She declared today a National “Day of Prayer.” Read the full transcript here.
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Kim Reynolds: (00:00)
As of yesterday, 476 recovered for a recovery rate of 38%, and I am sorry to report that we have had an additional two deaths, one elderly and one older adult, both from Lynn County, for a total of 29 deaths. Yesterday, I was joined by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, Director Durham, to update Iowans on our progress with the Small Business Relief Program. Today, the United States Department of Labor announced that 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week. Here in Iowa, we continue to experience tens of thousands of claims filed weekly. I have asked our Iowa Workforce Development director, Beth Townsend, to join me today to provide an update.
Beth Townsend: (00:52)
The number of initial claims reported by the U.S. Department of Labor filed in Iowa between Monday, or I’m sorry, Sunday, March 29th and Saturday, April 4th, was 67,187, and the number of continuing claims, meaning a second and beyond weekly claims, was 92,952. This includes 3,147 claims filed by individuals who work in Iowa but who live outside of our state.
Beth Townsend: (01:22)
We paid a total of $27,565,232.00 of unemployment insurance benefits during last week. Most of the claims are being paid in seven to 10 days from the time of their initial filing. As most of you know, the Coronas … the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act took effect on March 29th, 2020, so I wanted to give you an update on where we are in terms of implementing that act. The act provided that the pandemic unemployment assistance provides unemployment benefits for the self-employed, including independent contractors, freelancers, gig economy workers, nonprofit employees, and the self-employed. You can watch a video at our website that will show you screen by screen how to apply for these particular benefits. You can also upload the necessary documents to prove and establish your income for 2019, or 2020, in order for us to determine what eligibility you have for unemployment benefits.
Beth Townsend: (02:29)
The Cares Act also provides the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which will provide an additional $600.00 per week for everyone who qualifies for a new, or existing unemployment benefits, including those who are receiving regular unemployment benefits, and those who are self-employed. The start date for this program is March 29th, 2020 and the end date for these benefits is July 31st, 2020., We anticipate these payments will begin to go out next week and once they do start to go out, we will post an update on our website notifying people.
Beth Townsend: (03:08)
I want to remind you that you cannot voluntarily quit your job in an effort to obtain the weekly benefit, or unemployment benefits. Voluntary quits are a disqualifier for unemployment benefits. You must be either laid off in a temporary layoff, or have reduced hours to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. We have been waving the charges to employers accounts for all employers who filed unemployment due to COVID-19 related claims. Today, we are announcing that we have put in place a trigger so that once the UI, or the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, reaches this balance, we will need to begin charging employers with these unemployment claims. That trigger is $950 million. We are currently at 1.13 billion dollars in our trust fund, so about 180 million dollars away from the trigger. None of the benefits from the Cares Act will be taken from the trust fund, so this applies only to unemployment claims that are made by employees with employers in the state of Iowa.
Beth Townsend: (04:17)
Federal legislation has also provided that experiential ratings on businesses will not be impacted by these claims, however, the overall balance strongly affects the federal tax table Iowa employers will be in, in 2021. We are currently in tax table seven and we believe setting this trigger will help to ensure we do not fall into tax table six. The tax tables affect the baseline tax rates for employers and is therefore key to helping minimize the impact of this event moving forward and spurring our recovery.
Beth Townsend: (04:52)
Iowa Workforce Development continues to receive tens of thousands of calls a day. We’re working very hard to answer all of those calls. When you call, please wait for the ringing to stop. You will hear momentary silence and then someone will answer … answer the phone. We are also working hard to clean out the email box before the end of the day and turning around email responses to UI claims help@iowa … iwddotiowa.gov, within 24 hours.
Beth Townsend: (05:21)
As the governor says all the time, she knows Iowans, we’re going to get through this together. I would ask that all Iowans provide the hardworking, dedicated, and committed staff at IWD the same patience in grace, they would their friends and neighbors. We may not get to you as quickly as we normally would but we will get to you, and more important, we will get your claims paid.
Kim Reynolds: (05:48)
Thank you Beth for that update, and thank you and your team at Iowa Workforce Development for all that they are doing, day in and day out, to assist Iowans during this incredibly difficult team … time. We also, this week, we have spent time reviewing information about the RMCCs, the Regional Medical Coordination Centers, that have been established by the Iowa National Guard, again to support the Iowa Department of Public Health, and our healthcare coalitions, by facilitating communication, critical information sharing, and coordinating healthcare resources within a region, or across the state.
Kim Reynolds: (06:23)
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I shared information about the RMCCs in eastern and central Iowa, where our state’s hotspots are located. Today, I want to highlight the RMCC regions in western Iowa. Region number three covers northwest Iowa. Currently this region has nine counties with no positive COVID-19 cases and a significant number of counties with three or less positive cases. As of yesterday, in region three, we had one COVID-19 patient that was hospitalized. No new patients were admitted in the last 24 hours. We have one that was in ICU and one on a ventilator. There are 399 inpatient beds, 32 ICU beds, and 51 ventilators available and ready for patient care.
Kim Reynolds: (07:11)
And now we’ll move to our MCC region four which covers southwest Iowa. Yesterday, in region four, there were four COVID-19 patients hospitalized. No new patients were admitted in the last 24 hours. Three were in ICUs and one was on a ventilator, and there are 262 inpatient beds, 39 ICU beds, and 58 ventilators still available for patient care.
Kim Reynolds: (07:41)
Yesterday, we also had calls and emails from people who were interested in seeing the data again for eastern Iowa, so I want to provide a quick update on regions five and six. In region five, where Johnson County is located, there were 32 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, as of yesterday. Seven new patients were admitted in the last 24 hours, 14 were in ICUs and 11 were on ventilators. There were 702 inpatient beds, 93 ICU beds, and 167 ventilators available for patient care in that region.
Kim Reynolds: (08:20)
Region six, which includes Lynn County, where an outbreak in a long-term care facility has resulted in many elderly adults becoming seriously ill, yesterday in region six there were 48 COVID-19 patients hospitalized. Four new patients were admitted in the last 24 hours. 32 patients are in ICUs and 17 were on ventilators. At the same time, there are 1002 inpatient beds, 57 ICU beds, and 119 ventilators available for patient care in region six. As we are seeing across all our MCC regions, Iowa’s capacity to care for …
Kim Reynolds: (09:03)
… COVID-19 patients and available resources are very good at this time. We are monitoring this information daily, and if the situation changes, we’re ready to respond. The RMCC model is in place so that we can function as one healthcare system across the state, working together to, again, manage our resources and provide the best possible care for Iowans in need.
Kim Reynolds: (09:28)
Even during this challenging time, there are so many good things that are happening in our state, and I want to acknowledge and thank the many Iowans who are stepping up to answer the call to help during this unprecedented time, especially the businesses and individuals that are producing PPE on a daily basis. Iowa’s own Department of Corrections and the Iowa Prison Industries have now produced more than 25,000 masks, 3,000 gowns, 5,000 face shields and 7,000 gallons of hand sanitizer. Dimensional graphics, a manufacturer in Mason City, is producing 100,000 face shields that will begin arriving this week to the state stockpile, and distributed to healthcare and long-term care facilities in need. I want to, again, just say thanks to Homeland Security, the Iowa National Guard, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Public Safety for ensuring that as soon as those PPEs come into the state stockpile, it is being loaded on trucks and delivered to where it’s needed. Today the state has made 353 deliveries across all 99 counties.
Kim Reynolds: (10:33)
And finally, everyday Iowans are rolling up their sleeves to help. Tara Carlson from Stratford bought a sewing machine, taught herself to sew face masks so that she can donate them to local care centers. Her husband is a nurse practitioner, so she understands how important it is to protect our healthcare workforce. Tara is also pregnant, and when she can’t sleep at night, she gets up and sews. So far she has made 147 face masks and have donated them all. Tara, I want to thank you and your husband for everything that you’re doing to help Iowans during this time. Be safe and take care of yourselves. So if you can sew a face mask for your local healthcare and longterm care facilities, that is one way that you can help those on the front lines during this pandemic. You can find more information about how to make those masks at coronavirus.iowa.gov. And with that, we will open it up for questions.
Speaker 2: (11:35)
Governor, on the PPEs and the equipment, we’re hearing now that the national stockpile has been depleted. I don’t know if you’ve heard that yet from the federal government. Has that made an impact on Iowa? Is there any orders that you have pending that you might not get? And can you just give us an update on the relationship that you have ordering from that stockpile?
Kim Reynolds: (11:52)
So that’s why I’m continuing to highlight the great things that businesses and individuals are doing within our state. We continue to place orders. We have received some. Some have been delayed, so we continue to monitor that. But that’s why from the very beginning, this has been an issue for every single state across this country, and that’s why we’ve been proactive. We’ve had a whole hands on deck, all of the above approach, and I really am proud to say that Iowans and businesses are responding, and we have to do that until we can build back up our stockpiles, both at the national level and at the state level.
Kim Reynolds: (12:28)
So again, I just want to thank all of the workers that are reaching out and coordinating these efforts, and daily we get so many calls from individuals that are saying, “What can I do to help? How can I retrofit? Where do I need to go? Who do I need to talk to? I want to step up and I want to be a part of that.” And that is anywhere from individuals like Tara, that I just mentioned, all the way to bigger businesses that are reaching out and digging deep, and really playing a role in helping protect those individuals that are standing on the front line to keep all of us safe and healthy.
Speaker 2: (13:02)
Do we have enough equipment, do you feel? I mean, is it enough for the hospitals and people [crosstalk 00:00:13:06]?
Kim Reynolds: (13:03)
Well, the PPE is going to continue to be an issue. So right now we’re monitoring it very carefully. We’re getting the needs where they’re at, but I put the plea out, “Help us,” so we’re going to continue to monitor that to make sure that we can continue, especially as we talk about additional people wearing face masks and doing additional steps to protect individuals. So we just can’t let up for a second. We need to continue to dig deep, do our part, and answer the call.
Speaker 3: (13:34)
A question about the point scale for the different regions. When a region reaches 10 on that point scale, is that an automatic trigger for a shelter in place order for that region? Are there any automatic things that happen when that threshold is reached?
Kim Reynolds: (13:48)
Yeah. We’re looking at that, and as we see some move into a nine, we’re looking at what additional steps need to take place to help continue to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, to make sure that we’re flattening the curve, and most importantly that we’re doing everything we can not to overwhelm the healthcare system. And so we have a series of next steps that we’re looking at, and we’re looking at it from a regional perspective. We’re also looking at various counties, we’re looking at various communities, so we’re collecting all of that data.
Kim Reynolds: (14:22)
But first and foremost, we really can do what we need to do by Iowans following through what we’ve asked them to do. And that’s how we protect every Iowan. And that is stay home, only go out for essential things like going to the grocery store, going to the doctor, picking up medicine. If you go out and exercise, do it responsibly. Practice social distancing. Don’t gather in groups larger than 10 people. If you are sick, isolate yourself and stay home. If someone in your household is sick, isolate your family and stay home until you’ve recovered from the timeframe that the Department of Public Health has asked people to stay at home.
Kim Reynolds: (15:02)
If we all just, again, dig deep and practice and do what we’ve asked you to do, we will continue to see the curve flatten. We will start to see the numbers drop and we will start to talk about how we dial back up this economy, and how we start to open things back up instead of talking about how we close things down. So if Iowans will do what we’ve asked you to do, and especially by doing that, protecting those healthcare workers that are on the front line, our first responders, our people that are in grocery stores, our truck drivers that are delivering foods, our food supply chain, if you do your part to protect them, we will get the results that we’re looking for and we will start to have a different conversation about how we open things back up.
Speaker 4: (15:48)
Governor, if I heard you right, you said we have 2,530, the testing capacity at the state lab-
Kim Reynolds: (15:55)
Speaker 4: (15:56)
… which just going by memory, I think is significantly higher than you have said before.
Kim Reynolds: (16:01)
Speaker 4: (16:02)
In light of that, are you now able to allow testing for more people? And then I think it was last week you said we might be getting the mobile testing and such.
Kim Reynolds: (16:12)
Abbott machines. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So what you’re seeing too is, I think you’re seeing more and more patients that are going to their own physicians that are getting the tests done, and that’s happening by not only the national labs but other sources. We have hospitals now that can administer the test and get the results relatively quickly, than sending them out to national labs that has a little bit of a lag time. So it’s better at the State Hygienic Lab. We can get those results in about 24 hours. So it’s just, it’s more relevant. The timeliness of it, and then we did, the State Hygienic Lab did get the 15 Abbott machines where you can get the positive, negative in five minutes.
Kim Reynolds: (16:51)
We have a limited number of tests right now. I have asked, because of the significant uptick, for some additional machines and some additional tests. I think we should be getting them today so that we can start to, again, really target, especially some of these longterm care facilities, and we’ll be working with, you know, dr Pedati and the Department of Public Health to see where we should be utilizing the machines that can test, get the results in five minutes, fairly quickly. And then we’re constantly looking, and so they all started doing this at the national level. Just ways that we can do additional testing, and really broaden kind of the information that we’re able to utilize as we move through this. And I think that’ll be really important too, when we start to talk about opening things back up.
Speaker 4: (17:36)
Just to clarify, the additional machines that you’re asking for, would that be done in Iowa City, or is that spread around?
Kim Reynolds: (17:42)
They are mobile. I don’t know. If you want to weigh in, let me know. They are mobile, so they can go to different places, and then they can actually conduct the test there, is my understanding. Okay.
Speaker 5: (17:52)
Do you know where “there” will be?
Kim Reynolds: (17:54)
Well, no, but they’re going to collect the metrics. They’re looking at the data. That’s what public health, with everybody, the metrics that we’re collecting, we can start to identify-
Kim Reynolds: (18:03)
… where some of the hot spots are. Do you want to talk about maybe where, how else you would utilize them?
Sure. So Dr. Padoti And Dr. Pentella are from the State Hygienic Lab, that was a nice blurring of the names there. They are local looking at areas of the state where we think that these machines will be most beneficial. And so, one of the things we’re looking at is longterm care facilities. And so if we have a concern about a particular longterm care facility that seems to be an ideal place where we could deploy one of these machines, do some rapid testing, get some rapid results. And so we could, if there was a concern about a particular facility instead of having to wait 24 hours to get a test result, we would be able to deploy them. And so that’s kind of the way that we have, initially anyway, envisioned using those machines. There do appear to be concerns in particular areas that they could be easily deployed. So we can get some information very quickly about what’s happening in those areas.
Last question in here.
Speaker 6: (19:02)
Well, so if you have that capability, couldn’t you start testing everyone at a longterm care facility when a case of COVID-19 arises? And shouldn’t everyone be tested?
Kim Reynolds: (19:14)
Well eventually, hopefully we’ll get there. We’re just not there. So we have the extra 15 machines that are mobile that allows us to get some of those results. Right now, there was a limited number of tests just like we started out with the State Hygienic Lab that came with those, but we have more coming in tomorrow. We’ll continue to request increased testing materials so that we can do that. And really, to Sarah’s point, get those where we need them so we can, especially, we know how critical it is to identify a potential issue in these longterm care facilities. And the quicker that we can find out, isolate, make sure they’re doing the contact tracing so we can identify where the problems might be. They’ll become useful from that perspective. So we’ll continue to hopefully as we ramp up the test kits, be able to utilize those even more.
All right. We’re going to go to Rachel Josie at Channel Five.
Rachel Josie: (20:07)
Hi, Governor. We are wondering if you are encouraging the general public to wear face masks in public here in Iowa? And then also if you could give us an updated number for each region.
Kim Reynolds: (20:21)
Okay. On the statistics, I forgot to bring that. So Sarah will give you that. I think she’s got it in the binder, but that’s kind of like a secondary. What we’re encouraging every Iowan to do when they’re out and about to practice social distancing, first. Limit your trips outside of the home. If you have to work outside of the home, then practice good hygiene, practice good measures and social distancing, and then have that with you. So if you come in to contact or if you’re not able to social distance, then you’re able to put the mask on.
Kim Reynolds: (20:59)
But, really the first priority would be to social distance, to limit, only go out for essential services. If you can work from home, work from home. If you can’t, practice good hygiene, social distancing, disinfect often, and potentially then if you can’t do that, then you have a face mask they’re ready to utilize. Thanks, Sarah. I need to remember to bring that tomorrow. So, region six is at an eight. Region five is at a nine. Region two is at a seven. Region one is eight. Region three is at a six. And region four is at a six.
Next question. We’ll go to Todd at KCCI.
Governor, I’m not sure if you or Sarah would be best for this, but we’ve gotten some emails and calls about will we be doing any kind of antibody testing in the state and will that be some metric to decide how fast we can get back to normal?
Kim Reynolds: (22:04)
Yeah, it’ll be really important, I think as we start to again talk about dialing things back up and moving towards bringing the economy back online. But, I’m going to let Sarah answer that question.
Yeah, Todd. Thanks for the question. That is actually something that we are really excited about, but again it goes to testing supplies. And so testing supplies are going to be necessary so that we can do that sort of antibody testing. But I do think that it’s something that we see a lot of promise in, especially as the governor talks about kind of being able to reopen things, that presents a possibility for us to be able to analyze people that might not otherwise have been tested, who might’ve been mildly ill, who might’ve followed our guidance all along to stay home, if they were feeling ill and they weren’t able to get a test and they’ve recovered.
And so the antibody testing is something that we think is part of the future of our response to this particular pandemic. And so we’re really looking forward to learning more about that and to having the supplies become available so that we can start to employ that in our state.
James Lynch at the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
James Lynch: (23:15)
Good morning, governor. Looking ahead to the June 2nd Primary, Secretary of State and County auditors are encouraging mail-in voting. And I’m wondering if you’re hearing from any corners, the parties, campaigns or candidates, that the election should either be postponed or conducted entirely by mail? And are you confident that voters and poll workers will be safe at the in-person voting sites?
Kim Reynolds: (23:41)
I don’t think at this point there’s any need to cancel the June primary. I know the Secretary of State has been very proactive. I have complete confidence in the Secretary of State and the local auditors all across the state of Iowa to conduct the elections with integrity, as they have always done. So right now we’re going to continue to monitor the data. We’re hoping we’re going to continue to see kind of that consistent kind of flattening of the curve. And we’re hoping that we can start to see a decline after we get that peak and then we can start talking again about how we start to reopen. And we’ll kind of reevaluate, well, we reevaluate every day, but the orders that I put in place go through April 30th. So, hopefully by then we’ll have a better sense of what things look like.
All right, we’re going to hear from Nick at the Des Moines Register.
Yeah, thank you for the time, Governor. You previously cited the matrix as kind of a guidepost for mitigation efforts and when those should be ramped up. And now you’re also saying that it’s an element, there’s other aspects that you guys take into consideration. What are some of the other things that you are taking into consideration aside from the matrix? And then also in regards to unemployment, have we seen a similar surge in Medicaid applications?
Kim Reynolds: (25:00)
Yeah, we’re watching all that. I think sometimes everyone is getting so hung up on the metrics. Let’s go back to the main message that we have said since the beginning of this. And that is stay at home. Avoid exposure. That is how you can keep from getting exposed and you can keep from exposing others. Only go out for essential errands. Again, it’s grocery store, doctor’s, prescriptions. Go out and exercise. Do it responsibly. Practice social distancing. Don’t gather in groups of more than 10. Work from home, if you can. And if you’re sick, isolate yourself and stay home. That’s what Iowans need to be focusing on. We need you doing that. We need you doing that right now. We need you doing that to not only protect our healthcare workers, our most vulnerable Iowans, so that we can flatten the curve, not overwhelm the healthcare system, and that we can start to have a different conversation.
Kim Reynolds: (25:48)
So what I would like everyone to do is to help me elevate that message, help me raise the volume, practice neighborhood in a good way, not in a bad way, neighborhood watches, where we encourage everybody to social distance, to do the right thing. If we do that, then these press conferences can be about how we can start to open things back up and get this state and this country back to normal. And so let’s focus on what we need to be doing, what we can do by being individually responsible. We all have a role to play. We can change the narrative, we can flatten the curve, we can get through this together, if we all do what we need to do. So let’s focus on that.
We’ve got time for two more questions. Lynn at Iowa Capitol Dispatch.
Hi, Governor. Kind of going back to the conversation about PPE, and especially since the national stockpile is depleted. I was just wondering if the state is bidding for PPE against other states and the federal government, and if we fail to get the equipment, because we’ve been out bid?
Kim Reynolds: (27:00)
No, it’s just we’re all out there putting out-
Kim Reynolds: (27:03)
… contracts, requesting for PPE on all different levels. Department of Administrative Services doing that, our individual agencies are doing that, Homeland Security is doing that. We’re accessing through our state stockpile, the national stockpile. In addition to that, we’re reaching out to business and industry and individuals. So, everybody from the very beginning has been out there going through the same procedures to try to make sure that we have sufficient personal protective equipment to take care of those that are on the front line. So everybody is out there doing everything they can. It’s just, we’re short supply. It’s just a reality of what we’re dealing with. And so, we are all doing everything we can in every single state across this country to make sure that they can take care of the people that are standing on the frontline, our heroes, during all of this, taking care of Iowans. So every state is doing the same thing.
Speaker 7: (28:01)
Rod [inaudible 00:00:28:03], last question.
Thank you. Governor. On March 29th, the expectation was that Iowa’s was outbreak with peak in two or three weeks. Since we’re almost two weeks out from that projection, does it look like the peak is coming next week or are you having to push that back into later into the month? One projection out there puts Iowa’s peak as April 29th. Does that look like a likely outcome and if so, would that prompt you to boot back the reopening of some Iowa businesses beyond the April 30th date in your emergency orders?
Kim Reynolds: (28:41)
Yeah, we’re looking at it every day and I’ve said even with schools, we talked about it yesterday. One of the questions I got was when we were going to inform schools what our intentions were for the rest of the school year, and I said we would look at that two weeks out. So we’re actually evaluating the data every single day, all through the day. But I’m going to ask Sarah to talk about kind of the potential peak and what that looks like.
Thank you. So with all of the mitigation efforts that we have been trying to put in place that we have been out here day after day, asking all Iowans to do, the goal of all of those things is to really flatten the curve, so we don’t see a peak in cases. And I can tell you when we’re looking at our epidemiological curve, it is starting to flatten, which means that Iowans are listening. And that means that also, it’s time to continue to do those things so that we don’t start moving in the wrong direction. And so our projections about that haven’t changed. All along, we’ve said last week was going to be a week where we would continue to see increased case counts. We’ve said the same thing about this week and that’s remained to be true. But what we can tell you is that we’re starting to see our curve kind of flattened out, which is exactly where we wanted to be.
And the reason that we’ve seen that and the reason that we’d be able to do that is because Iowans are doing what we’re asking them to do, which is stay home as much as possible. Social distance if you do have to go out of your home. Leave only for essentials like groceries or going to the pharmacy. If we can all continue to do that, hopefully we’ll continue to see a flat curve and then we can get to the point of antibody testing like we talked about earlier. And then we can get to the point of talking about reducing some of the mitigation strategies, so as the governor has said, we can start to get our state back to normal. But right now what islands are doing has been incredibly helpful and we want you to continue to do all of those same things.
Kim Reynolds: (30:34)
Could not set that better myself. That’s exactly right. We can do that. We can do this. So in closing, I want to recognize this Holy time as Easter and Passover celebrations begin today. I am asking all Iowans to join together in a day of prayer for protection, healing, grace, and peace. This has been a challenging time for all of us, but with God’s grace, there is always a promise of hope. Today I will be praying for you and your families for our healthcare workers, our first responders, our essential workforce, including those in manufacturing, food production, transportation, and our grocery store workers for keeping our supply chain up and running and for the strength of our state.
Kim Reynolds: (31:18)
So God bless each and every one of you. God bless this great state of Iowa, and I promise you, if you keep doing what we’ve asked you to do, we are going to get through this together. Thank you.