Governor Kim Reynolds has ordered bars, taverns, breweries and nightclubs in six Iowa counties to close at 5 p.m. today due to a surge in Covid cases among young adults in Johnson, Story, Linn, Black Hawk, Polk and Dallas Counties.
“Really, the data is compelling,” Reynolds said during a late morning news conference. “When you look at the last two weeks, 23% of all the positive cases statewide were among young adults ages 19 through 24.”
The governor said the stats are even more alarming for the counties where college students have returned for classes the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.
“When we take a look at the last seven days, 69% of the new cases Johnson County…and 74% of new cases in Story County were among that same age group,” the governor said.
Late this spring, younger Iowans below the age of 40 became the majority of people testing positive for the coronavirus. During today’s news conference, Reynolds was asked why she waited until case counts were spiking again in college towns to close the bars.
“I don’t take these decisions lightly,” Reynolds replied, “but we made the decision to move forward with this because we felt that it was important to get in front of what could potentially be, you know, a bad flu season and so we know it’s important that we start to flatten that curve, that we reduce the virus activity and this was a way that we felt that we could do that and, you know, I’m hoping that we’ll start to see those mitigation efforts have a result.”
While young adults are less likely to become seriously ill if they contract Covid, they can spread it to others and there’s concern the virus is now so prevalent in those six counties it may lead to overloaded hospitals, outbreaks at nursing homes and workforce shortages.
“An increase in community spread, regardless of how it occurs, puts older adults and people with underlying health conditions at even greater risk,” Reynolds said, “and with the start of the flu season not that far away, it is imperative that we implement some immediate steps to slow the spread among young adults in our state.”
The governor’s new public health disaster proclamation lets Iowa restaurants stay open, but they must stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m. each night. Reynolds is calling on Iowa police and sheriff’s departments to issue citations when Iowans host packed private parties with too many people. The governor’s proclamation also calls on Iowans hosting social gatherings of more than 10 people to ensure six-feet of social distancing between guests.
“I am strongly encouraging all Iowans age two and older to wear a mask or other face coverings when in public settings,” Reynolds said.
But Reynolds told reporters making that a statewide policy is not enforceable.
“You just see it over and over and over when somebody says that they are issuing a mask mandate, almost within the same paragraph they say that they’re not going to enforce it, so let’s just focus on the goal,” Reynolds said. “Let’s focus on being responsible. Let’s focus on flattening the curve. Let’s focus on doing the right thing and I believe we can do that without a mask mandate.”
Nine counties have a 14-day average Covid test positivity rate above 15 percent, but the governor has ordered bars to close in only one of them — Johnson County. Reynolds said the number of residents getting tested in Plymouth, Howard, Sioux, Clinton, Marion, Carroll, Lee and Des Moines Counties is small, so that “sometimes skews” the positivity rate.
(This post was updated at 1 pm and at 1:42 pm with additional information)