Iowa governor makes disaster proclamation after five more presumptive positive coronavirus cases found

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation after news of more coronavirus cases.


Katina Zentz

Gov. Kim Reynolds gives the Condition of the State address at the Iowa State Capitol on Tuesday, January 14, 2020.

Sarah Watson, Managing Editor

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation Monday after state health officials confirmed five new presumptive positive cases of the novel coronavirus — four of the five people who tested positive live in Johnson County.

The number of coronavirus cases in Iowa now totals eight. Seven of the eight people with a presumptive positive coronavirus case reside in Johnson County, and all traveled on the same cruise in Egypt.

All eight are recovering at home in isolation.

Of the new coronavirus cases, four of the five people are between the ages of 61 and 80, are residents of Johnson County and traveled on the same Egyptian cruise as the three cases announced on Sunday. The cruise took place from Feb. 17 to March 2, with residents returning to Johnson County on March 3.

The remaining person is a resident of Pottawattamie County, is between the ages of 41 and 60, and recently traveled to California.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency Monday, activating the disaster response and recovery aspects of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s Iowa Emergency Response Plan.

The proclamation authorizes state agencies to use resources including personnel, equipment and facilities to perform activities necessary to prevent, contain and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 virus, according to a news release from the Iowa Department of Public Health and the governor’s office.

In a statement Sunday after the first three cases in Johnson County were announced, the University of Iowa released a statement saying campus operations would not be immediately affected.

The message said any changes in operations — including student instruction — will be made in tandem with the Iowa Department of Public Health and the state Board of Regents, among other agencies.

A March 2 email sent to Tippie College of Business students advised instructors to prepare tools to conduct classes remotely in case of a widespread coronavirus outbreak in Iowa. UI officials have not confirmed such plans are in place across the university, but have said they’re following the campus’ critical-incident management plan to cooperate with public entities that manage disaster control to continuously plan and minimize risk from such incidents.

The University of Iowa-based State Hygienic Lab conducted the testing for the Johnson County residents, while a Nebraska testing center tested the Pottawattamie case.

The first cases of coronavirus have been linked to Wuhan, China, in December, 2019, but cases have been found now in over 97 countries. At least 666 people in 36 states and Washington, have tested positive for the virus, according to the most recent count by the New York Times.

Iowa previously had no reported cases of the novel coronavirus, and state health officials had maintained that the state’s risk was low for an outbreak.

“While this news is concerning, it’s not cause for alarm,” Reynolds said during a news conference Sunday. “The most important thing that we can do right now is remain calm, understand the situation, and stay informed in the days and weeks ahead. We are committed to transparency and keeping the public informed.”

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, 51 people have been tested for the virus. Thirty-two tested negative for the virus and 11 tests are pending.


This is a developing story. Check back for updates.