Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Governor Kim Reynolds today said due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in 14 northeast Iowa counties, she’s imposing new restrictions on activities to slow the spread of the virus.

“Effective at 11:59 p.m. tonight in all Region 6 counties, all gatherings for social, community, recreational, leisure or sporting activities will cease through April 30. You may gather only with members of your immediate household,” Reynolds said. “Limited exceptions will be made for weddings, funerals and other religious gatherings which will continue to be restricted to ten people or less.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health developed a map of the state to follow COVID-19 trend lines. Region 6 includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Dubuque, and Decorah. The counties included are Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchana, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Grundy, Howard, Jones, Linn, and Winneshiek.

The governor is not ordering additional business closures in this region and she’s not calling this additional step a “stay-at-home” order. She is urging companies to let employees work from home, if possible. Businesses that remain open are encouraged to ensure employees and customers stay at least six feet away from one another. And Reynolds said if you have a mask, use it.

The governor today announced there is a suspected outbreak at a major northeast Iowa plant. Tyson’s Waterloo facility continues to operate, but Reynolds said the state has sent 1500 test kits to the county to screen plant employees for the virus.

“It is an essential infrastructure. It is part of our food supply,” Reynolds said. “…We have to make sure that we’re protecting the employees, so that is always first and foremost, and they know that because that’s how we keep the facility up and going, so they have a vested interest in making sure that they’re taking care of their workforce, but as we start to shut more and more of these processing plants down, then it backs up and there’s other severe consequences.”

Tyson’s pork plant in Columbus Junction closed down April 6th. The beef processing plant in Tama is also closed. The state is not providing a running tally of how many workers at Iowa’s 18 food processing plants have COVID-19. The governor said plant managers are asked to notify the state if at least 10 percent of the workforce is sickened by the virus.

“Employers are doing the right thing. Employers need to continue to do the right thing. We’re going to continue to work with them and be a partner,” Reynolds said. “…Individuals need to take individual responsibility. Like I can’t monitor every single person across the state.”

State records indicate more than 2100 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed through testing. A spike in cases in Black Hawk County, combined with confirmed outbreaks nursing homes pushed the state’s rating system to the point that triggered the governor’s action today for 14 northeast Iowa counties.

“And it requires everyone in the order to do everything absolutely possible to social distance, at least to stay six feet apart,” Reynolds said. “I would remind Iowans that if you’re not able to do that or you’re in a place where you’re concerned that you can’t social distance, have a mask and put that on if you have that available.”

The governors of seven Midwest states today (Thursday) announced they are working together on a regional reopening of their states’ economies. The group includes the governors of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Several news organizations are reporting Iowa’s governor declined to participate. A spokesman for Reynolds said she will continue to have conversations with nearby governors as she prepares to open the state of Iowa up in the coming weeks.