Aug 11, 2020
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds Press Conference Transcript August 11
Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa held a press conference on August 11. She issued disaster proclamations for 13 counties and discussed coronavirus updates. Read her full update briefing here.
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Governor Kim Reynolds: (08:08)
Okay. Well, good morning. I want to start off this morning with an update from yesterday, severe weather that was widespread and stretched nearly the entire state of Iowa. Last night, and this morning I issued disaster declarations for 13 counties; Benton Boon, Cedar, Clinton, Dallas, Jasper, Johnson, Lynn, Marshall, Muscatine, Poweshiek, Story, and Tama. But we do anticipating several of those came in this morning. So we do anticipate that number to grow as more counties assess damage and their needs.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (08:42)
And just as a reminder to Iowans and to our local governments, that the request needs to come from the local government to the State of Iowa. It’s not implemented from the state for the request for disaster declarations. The weather experts now tell us that the system moved through Iowa and it gained strength and became a derecho. Which is a windstorm that has the wind speeds of a hurricane anywhere from 70 to 100 miles per hour, and often more widespread devastation than a tornado.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (09:14)
Rain, hail, and high winds caused significant damage to trees, crops, downed power lines. And caused structural damage to homes, farm buildings, and healthcare facilities. Semi-trucks, vehicles, and campers were overturned. And some transportation routes were impassible. We had to close portions of Interstate 35 and 380, Highways 218 and 69, as well as others.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (09:41)
This morning, I had a farmer reach out to me to say that this was the worst wind damage to crops and farm buildings that he has ever seen across the state in such a wide area. Early estimates, and again, these are early estimates are that 10 million crop acres have been impacted by the storms. Although, it will take days or weeks to know the full scope of-
Governor Kim Reynolds: (10:03)
Though it will take days or weeks to know the full scope of damage, initial reports are significant. We were informed last evening that the Woodward Resource Center had significant roof damage to four buildings. The Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown also had severe damage to its buildings and limited access because of debris and downed power lines.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (10:22)
The Department of Inspections and Appeals also reported some nursing homes that had been impacted. The Madrid Home for the Aging in Boone County had part of its roof torn off, which forced the evacuation of six COVID-19 patients. And, although no residents were injured, one staff member was taken to the hospital when a window blew out. Nelson Manor in Newton also had damage that forced it to evacuate 20 residents to a nearby church. We also had three of our Test Iowa sites that had to close yesterday because of the storms. And they will remain closed today. And that’s the Test Iowa drive up sites in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, and Marshalltown. So, that will impact some of the testing numbers that we’re seeing. But they are working to reopen those as quickly as possible.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (11:14)
We’ve been in ongoing contacts with the team at Homeland Security and Emergency Management to discuss the range of issues impacting Iowans, from power outages, to property damage, to crop losses. The state Emergency Operation Center had already been activated for COVID-19. And so, we’ll continue to work with local governments to assess immediate as well as longterm needs. To give more details, I’d like to recognize director Flinn, who is the director of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Joyce. Where is Joyce at?
Joyce Flinn: (11:54)
Thank you, governor. As the governor said, the state Emergency Operations Center has been activated for the COVID response. But yesterday, this turned into a natural disaster response as well. As always, we are coordinating those resource requests from those local emergency management coordinators who serve as the point of contact in those counties. Thus far, we have received requests for generators, diesel fuel for generators, debris removal support, and communications assets. As the incident continues to unfold, I’m sure this list will grow.
Joyce Flinn: (12:26)
As you heard the governor say, 13 counties have requested state assistance in the form of either state resources or activation of the state Individual Assistance Grant Program. The State IA Program, as it’s called, is a grant of up to $5,000 for low income residents who are at or less than 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. Of note, this program covers replacement of spoiled or destroyed food up to a maximum of $50 for one person or $25 for each additional person in the household. The State IA Program is administered by the Department of Human Services. So, I urge everyone with power outages we’re experiencing, be cautious of consuming perishable foods that have been in your refrigerator a long time during this power outage. The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management team will continue to coordinate with partners at the local, state, and federal level to ensure requests for resources are provided as quickly as possible. Thank you.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (13:33)
Thanks Joyce. Currently, there are an estimated 450,000 households without power due to downed power lines and other damage. At our peak last night, there were 550,000 households without power. Linn County had 97% without power at one point, as well as Marshall County. We’re in regular contact with Mid American, Alliant Energy, and others, and certainly appreciate their diligence in restoring power.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (14:04)
But the seriousness of the damage to the power grid could mean that some power outages lasts for several days. Linn, Marshall, and Scott Counties especially was hard hit in terms of impact to its electrical grid. For example, more than 22 of the large lattice transmission towers were directly impacted. And, as I said earlier, they continue to assess the damage. At the state level, we’re going to continue providing any support needed to assist the utilities and transmission companies in getting power restored as quickly as possible. We’re also working to support bringing in electrical line workers from other parts of the country through the mutual aid compact that they have with our utility providers.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (14:48)
At this point, I’d like to turn it over to Commissioner Geri Huser, who is the chair of the Iowa Utilities Board, to provide an update on the power outage issue.
Geri Huser: (15:01)
Thank you, Governor, Lieutenant Governor. The Iowa Utilities Board, in the wake of Monday’s destructive thunderstorms, is working with Iowa utility companies to quickly assess damages and safely restore power to Iowans throughout the state. Utility companies have reporters to the IUB and have indicated that the storm damage was one of the most destructive of record with downed power lines, destructive tree damage, and hundreds of thousands of utility customers that are without service.
Geri Huser: (15:35)
While utility crews are working 24/7, at this time, there is no exact identified time for restoration of service. And utility crews and emergency management officers are making customers aware that some areas of service can expect to be without power for several days as debris is cleared and downed power lines are replaced. The Iowa Utilities Board and Iowa Utilities are asking customers to be patient as services will be restored as soon as the utility company companies can safely do so. The IUB is also aware that some utility companies have also lost communication services. And we’re encouraging those customers who cannot reach their utility company to call 211. Thank you.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (16:34)
Thanks, Geri. I appreciate the update. Later today, the Lieutenant Governor and I will be touring storm damage in Tama County, as well as Linn County, and viewing crop damage as well. It will be a number of days before we know the full impact of yesterday’s storms. But one thing is for certain, many of our neighbors have had their lives drastically impacted, whether it’s through injury or damage to their livelihoods. Kevin and I join with all Iowans in extending our thoughts and prayers to them and their families. And, of course, the state pledges its support to do whatever we can to support them in a quick recovery.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (17:11)
And also, let me thank all of the people who jumped into action on a moment’s notice to respond to the storms. Our county emergency managers are some of the unsung heroes of these kinds of emergencies. And, once again, I so appreciate all of their hard work and efforts. From local police and firefighters to our teams at the Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Safety, Homeland Security, Emergency, and Management, our Iowa National Guard, as well as others, from crews restoring power to volunteers chasing down livestock on interstates, I’m grateful for everyone who stepped up.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (17:48)
We’ll be providing additional updates as more becomes known on the full scope of these storms. And, as a reminder, as families and businesses, again, are facing power outages, Joyce kind of hit on this, but I’d like to remind Iowans to be mindful of food spoilage and the health impacts of that. After four hours without power, throw out perishable foods, check the temperature of food in your freezer, and throw out food that’s above 40 degrees. And, with that, we’ll go ahead and open it up for questions.
Speaker 4: (18:24)
Governor, are there any plans in these communities that will have extended power outages for shelters of some kind or so on and so forth? I mean, what are the plans, basically?
Governor Kim Reynolds: (18:36)
Yeah. So, they’re working on that. As I said, CIAC is already stood up, which really coordinates all of the various agencies, as well as the local emergency managers, which are really driving that at the local level. They’re very engaged. Of course, COVID-19 adds another element to how we are helping Iowans. So, we have to be mindful of that as we’re providing them the necessary resources that they need during the power outages. But we continue to work with local governments, to work with our emergency managers, to work with our local public health officials, all coordinated through Homeland Security with the various agencies that I just outlined to make sure that we’re getting Iowans the services that they need during these difficult times.
Speaker 4: (19:26)
What is the impact of this storm in terms of Iowa’s fight against COVID-19? Obviously, we had a couple test sites get pretty severe damage.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (19:27)
Yeah. Yeah. So, we’re hoping we can get those up and going today. So, our numbers from yesterday were down. You can still go to clinics and get tested. So, it doesn’t eliminate testing. You still have the opportunity to visit a clinic. The state hygienic lab also has expanded who can get testing through the state hygienic lab to K-12 students, educators. Caitlin, do I have everybody? Is that what the expansion includes? So, that’s another resource we’ve broadened out that availability as well. So, we’re hoping that we can get the other test sites up and going. And then, remember we have the partnership-
Governor Kim Reynolds: (20:03)
… get the other test sites up and going. And then remember we have the partnerships with the clinics that we have in rural Iowa throughout the state. And so that provides additional resources and access to Iowans who want to get tested. Which is something we have to be really mindful of as we’re addressing the damage that’s been caused by the severe storms. It’s just another element that we have to really be mindful of, especially when we know the outcome of congregate settings and the impact that that has on spreading COVID-19.
Speaker 5: (20:32)
You mentioned that 10 million acres of crop land has been flattened by the storm. There were also online, a lot of pictures of grain bins that were just destroyed. What is the recourse for farmers there? Is the state, the National Guard helping try to reclaim some of that grain that may not have been destroyed by the storm?
Governor Kim Reynolds: (20:56)
Yeah. So we’ll walk through some of that. And we have some experience with the floods and really, the procedures and processes are in place. And when I say 10 million acres, that is really early estimate. Some of the photos have just been devastating. And as I said, I’ve started to hear from farmers across the state who have just indicated they have never seen anything like this.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (21:17)
I’m hoping tomorrow, with the department of public safety, I am able to do a fly around so I can get some sense of what that agricultural damage looks like. But multiple bins, hoop buildings, sheds are gone. My director Leba was saying this morning on her drive down, she couldn’t believe the number of flattened corn and bins that were just shredded. So as we’re still trying to understand the impact, Joyce, you want to talk about maybe some of the resources that would be available through Homeland?
Joyce Flinn: (21:50)
Just like we do in any disaster, we’ll be doing damage assessments to determine the potential for requesting federal assistance. And a part of that federal assistance could be a small business administration declaration, or a US Department of Agriculture Secretarial Designation, which provides resources for impacted farmers.
Joyce Flinn: (22:09)
So as we continue to gather information, as the governor said, it’s very early, we’ll be considering all those things and what programs that Iowa can apply for. And knowing the governor, she’s going to take advantage of every opportunity to get programs for Iowans.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (22:23)
Joyce, is there anything that our farmers and Iowans can be doing? Like taking pictures, logging, and just so they have that?
Joyce Flinn: (22:30)
Absolutely. You want to document. Make sure you report damages to your local farm service agency is what we always recommend. So get your information to those folks, document. If you have any kind of crop insurance, check with your homeowners insurance, your farm policy, make sure you’re exploring every avenue where there might be resources available for you.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (22:51)
Thank you, Joyce, I appreciate that.
Joyce Flinn: (22:52)
Speaker 6: (22:53)
And governor beyond requiring a local government to apply for the emergency assistance, is there any other criteria that you were looking at before granting that?
Governor Kim Reynolds: (23:01)
No, they just have to request and then we can add them to the list. And it’s just a matter of what they’re requesting, individual assistance or just resources. Most of the counties to date have requested both individual assistance and state resources. I think there was just a couple of counties that just asked for state resources. And they can always come back, I think, and request the individual assistance too. I just think sometimes people think that it is the state that reaches out to the counties, and the process is just the opposite. It is the local government that request from the State of Iowa to be issued a disaster proclamation. So it was just a reminder and our emergency managers know that, that was more of an update for Iowans so that they understand how the process works.
Can you talk about what if anything, that federal government will be involved in this? And at what point do you reach out to FEMA or get any other assistance from them?
Governor Kim Reynolds: (23:52)
Yeah. So Region Seven has already reached out to Joyce. I believe they contacted her last night, help us with and the Iowa National Guard and just the resources that we have. Especially when we’re looking at the availability of generators, Ziegler, Caterpillar, they’re helping to provide some of the generators as needed. So there’s already been communication that has taken place. And Joyce talked about the threshold that we have to meet that then kicks it to a federal disaster declaration.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (24:22)
I keep looking over to make sure I’m on track here, but so that’s why we’re encouraging Iowans to make sure that we’re capturing their reporting and then getting it to their appropriate County venue. So then we can gather the dollar amount and then move forward, if we meet the criteria, with the federal declaration. And I will be shocked if we don’t, because it is just about across the entire state, very widespread and significant damage that has been done.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (24:55)
And just even from the transmission lines, with what we’re looking at, that we have to … a lot of them might not even be able to be fixed. They might have to be replaced and then getting them in. So, we’re going to get it done as quickly as we can. And I know we’ve got people coming in from all over the country to help. That’s really amazing how that compact works, but it’s still probably, I think what Jerry was trying to say is we’re looking at, it’s going to be longer than I think we’re used to seeing with power outages. Would that be accurate?
Speaker 7: (25:28)
Governor Kim Reynolds: (25:28)
Speaker 8: (25:32)
Governor, do you know if there were any COVID-19 tests damage during the storms yesterday?
Governor Kim Reynolds: (25:39)
I do not believe that they were. The tents because of the wind is where we started to see the damage and they shut down. So I don’t believe that there had been any of the tests that had been impacted. It was fairly early on in the day as well, but we’ll be sure and let you all know if that is the case, but to my knowledge, I don’t believe that there was.
Speaker 9: (26:02)
And to shift to the pandemic. There was a positive test in Indiana school for over the weekend. What’s your response?
Governor Kim Reynolds: (26:11)
Was that to the Indianola school?
Speaker 9: (26:13)
Governor Kim Reynolds: (26:14)
Yep. Yep. So the superintendent was going to be here today and kind of walk through the processes and procedures that they have in place and how they’re dealing with it. And I think that would have been a really … but he’s coming on Thursday. So we’ll have an opportunity to hear directly from the superintendent from the Indianola school system.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (26:33)
But they did exactly what they needed to do. And we know that this is going to be part of the process as long as we have COVID in the state of Iowa. And so I think the message that we’ve tried to deliver all along is we have to be fluid and flexible, and that’s how he’s addressing it with moving the class out for 14 days and then continuing doing the cleaning and then bringing them back in at the end. But I’ll let him, he will be here on Thursday and he’ll talk in a little more detail about the processes that they have in place and how they’re handling it. And I think it’ll be really good information for parents and for other schools to see how they’re doing it, just in anticipation of getting schools, reopened and getting our kids back to school.
Speaker 10: (27:18)
Governor, may I ask you two questions?
Governor Kim Reynolds: (27:20)
Speaker 10: (27:20)
I understand the president said last week that Dr. Birx would be in Iowa this week. And if you have any information on her visit, why she’s here and that kind of thing. And then secondly, may ask if how the conversations are going with the few school districts that had kind of decided they might not want to abide by some of the regulations that you’ve established? Thank you.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (27:40)
Good questions. So it’s my understanding that Dr. Birx has been traveling with the vice president on several of the trips that he’s been on. We’re actually hoping that Dr. Pedatty and the EPI team will have a chance to sit down with her and just talk about what’s going on in Iowa and talk about some of the things that we’re doing and some of the mitigation efforts that we have in place and how we’re utilizing the data that we have from Test Iowa to really help make decisions and to work with our school districts and our local public health officials. So I’m not sure what the timeline is, Sarah’s working on the details, but I know we’re going to get the opportunity to sit down with her and talk to her. So that’s a good thing. And the talks are going well.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (28:26)
So I’m really wanting to just commend Anne’s team and the Department of Education, really providing the outreach and working with the school districts to find a solution to meet what we believe the statute requires. And so it’s my understanding that those conversations are going really well. I think actually Urbandale, they have met the criteria. I think Iowa City is getting closer, and they’re working towards with Des Moines Public Schools as well. So it’s an ongoing process and we’re going to continue to work together and the data is changing and we want to take a look at that and make sure that we’re bringing our kids back safely and responsibly.
When you say meet the criteria, do you mean meeting the Return to Learn guidelines from the Department of Education are meeting criteria to successfully petition to get a waiver?
Governor Kim Reynolds: (29:17)
Well, so first of all, we want to get them in compliance because that’s what the statute calls for, and that’s what the guidance provides. This is how we do it. So actually the guidance does provide quite a bit of flexibility to what the statute calls for. Their intent is to try to do everything we can by stacking the different mitigation efforts. Is that how you say that, stacking? You want to talk about that?
Governor Kim Reynolds: (29:43)
Layering. Okay. She’s actually the person that does talk about it.
And I think the question you’re asking is, how are schools able to successfully comply with expectations? So those are the conversations we’ve been having. Oftentimes, it’s not a full understanding of the options that are available. So when we meet with schools, we work with them on the understanding of what the 50% actually means-
You work with them on the understanding of what their 50% actually means, what options are available to them within some of the flexibilities that governor proclamation allows and just having some of those conversations. So I think the intent is, is that is what has been successful. Districts that still have concerns are welcome to reach out to us and we’ve tried to be very proactive in reaching out to those that we know have some concerns.
Governor, on schools, I’m going to try to squeeze in a two for here. But Walkie last night, they don’t like the 15% positivity rate, they think that’s too high, as you know and so they’re going with 10. Will you provide districts any flexibility to have some judgment on their own about what that level should be. And then with the 10% absenteeism that you require, and when you’re generally talking about the 15 and 20% positivity, how does that come into play before school starts when you wouldn’t yet know?
Governor Kim Reynolds: (30:55)
So well, these are guidelines. So with the 10 to the 15%, they can apply for a waiver at any point. And I think all of our goals, Dave are to get our kids back in the classroom because from every expert, without a doubt, they have said that our kids need to be back in school for a whole host of reasons. But we have to make sure that we can do that safely and responsibly, we have to understand what the virus activity is in the community. We have to put that in context, whether is it maybe some of that due to a prison, some of that due to a longterm care facility that we know might not impact the school districts in a manner that that positivity rate might indicate, it has to do with population.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (31:35)
When we get in some of our smaller rural areas, you could possibly be testing 12 people for the day, have five that are positive, and you got a 33% positivity rate that even though it’s a 14 day average can tend to skew that. So that’s why we say it really is a collaboration between the school districts, The Department of Education, and The Department of Public Health to try to get where we need to be, but to do it in a safe and responsible manner. And then I don’t know, Dr. Pedati, do you want to add anything on the 10% absenteeism? It’s kind of tied to the flu numbers that we look at, so we’ve tried to kind of keep that consistent with what we’ve seen with flu in previous years to use kind of those same factors, I don’t know.
Dr. Caitlin Pedati: (32:25)
Yeah. It’s the way that we’ve worked [inaudible 00:32:28] in the past and with [inaudible 00:32:30] just echo that this is a starting point and it’s something we will continue to be [inaudible 00:32:37] particularly, since we wouldn’t have that going into the start of a school session. So again, I think takes all of those factors together and using that information to assess virus activity and the public health measures that need to be followed.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (32:54)
And it’s the number of kids in the school, right? So we take out the online. Anne, did you have something you wanted to add to that? Maybe she got it.
No. I think that specific question though, is something that we got a lot of feedback. We had a stakeholder group meeting on Friday and we have an FAQ that sort of pending to address some of this. We wanted to make sure we got feedback from that group first, and then we wanted to have our legal team look through that. So that will be calming, and I think that will help address some of those questions. And then when individual circumstances pop-up, we just encourage them to contact us to work through some of those considerations.
Governor, I just have one question to follow up about your comment about the prisons.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (33:32)
Yeah. Okay. So the other thing that I want to say, and we did this with the hospitals early on when we were at some of our highest numbers with COVID-19, to just do weekly calls with the school board association, ISEA, our team, Department of Education, Department of Public Health. So we’re all kind of talking about what we’re seeing and just the communication is, as we all know is key. And so as we were trying to get things done and to Dr. Pedati’s defense, we knew that the CDC was bringing on new guidelines, so we didn’t want to start something and then have them change knowing that it’s going to be very fluid anyway.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (34:09)
We were trying to get the latest information that we could to provide to our school districts, but it needs a really good thing that we’re… And we did this with the hospitals and the communication with the numbers and the surge plans and the beds and events and what that looked like. And it worked out really well, it had a significant impact on the way that we utilized our resources. Did I get both of your questions? Okay.
Just to follow up about the comment about the prisons. I know last week you mentioned Webster County with its higher upwards of 22% positivity rate that, that was a lot linked to the prison outbreak, which you said was controlled. But what consideration is your administration and the Department of Public Health giving to the fact that, obviously those who are in prison are not going into the community, but those who work at those facilities are going out. So is it really fair to say that it’s totally contained there and that they’re out in the community?
Governor Kim Reynolds: (35:05)
No, but we know that cohort, we know the numbers of positive. They did the contact tracing, so through that, we’re able to identify what that potential spread could look like. We’re able to identify the individuals that they’ve been in contact with so we can call them and tell them they need to 14 day quarantine. If they start to experience symptoms, they might want to get tested. So really with the information that we have, Caroline, we can do some of that research and start to better understand. And that doesn’t mean that it might so eventually through that, we might be able to see that that increased virus activity is potentially moving into the community and we need to do other things. So that’s all part of the process and really taking a look at where we’re seeing the positivity, taking a look at the population, taking a look at where the outbreaks are at, and then the 14 day average. And then working with them to see what we think collaboratively, the best or resolution might be.
Speaker 11: (36:01)
[inaudible 00:36:01] on the phone, and that’s the last one. Go ahead, [inaudible 00:06:08].
Speaker 12: (36:10)
I’ve got two questions that are kind of unrelated. As schools open, will the state be working with school officials to make known when students test positive for COVID or will it be another situation where reporters have to ask the right questions to get the information for the public? And also, have you calculated how much it will cost the state of Iowa to implement president Trump’s executive order that he signed over the weekend, giving jobs with Iowans an extra 400 a week with the state putting up a hundred of that benefit? When do you expect the Iowans will see that money?
Governor Kim Reynolds: (36:48)
Yeah, that’s a good question. We are running the numbers right now. We’re working with the Department of Workforce and she is actually on a conference call this morning with the department of labor to start to see what some of the other states are doing and to see what that potential fiscal impact looks like. I’m still hoping Congress can now put partisanship aside, get to the table and get something done. We need to get politics out of this, Caitlin. I don’t know, do you know how we’re reflecting it, we’re going to know that because we have to work with the schools, but I’m not sure how that process is being identified.
Dr. Caitlin Pedati: (37:23)
Yeah, public health will be working with the schools directly to help have this conversation when cases are identified so that information can be shared so that the right public health activities and actions can be taken. And just like everything we do in public health, in accordance with the law we protect personal identifying information for all the DS reports that come to us. And we also balanced that with making sure that when there’s something the public needs to be aware of in order to take an action to protect themselves, we share that information as well. So it’s another example of a place where we’ll continue to balance those two things thoughtfully, but again, from a public health perspective, we want to make sure that we’re sharing information as much as possible and as quickly as possible to help people make those safe and healthy decisions.
Governor Kim Reynolds: (38:16)
Thanks, Caitlin. I appreciate that. Thank you.