Iowa governor declares public-health disaster emergency amid COVID-19 spread, closing bars and restaurants

The Iowa Office of the Governor issued a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency in a press release Tuesday. The state of emergency includes significant social-distancing measures related to bars, restaurants, and recreational facilities, in response to COVID-19 spread.


Katina Zentz

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during the Condition of the State address at the Iowa State Capitol on Jan. 14.

Annie Fitzpatrick, News Reporter

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds called for the closure of bars, fitness centers, theaters, casinos, locations of mass gatherings, and senior citizen centers and adult daycare facilities, effective noon Tuesday. 

The measures are part of a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency, she declared Tuesday in response to the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa. The closures follow neighboring Illinois, and other states such as Ohio, California, and Washington State. 

In addition, restaurants will only accommodate drive-through, carry-out, and delivery orders for customers, a Tuesday press release said.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, there are currently 23 cases of COVID-19 in Iowa, 15 of which are in Johnson County. Of these cases, there is evidence of community spread, raising concerns in regard to social-distancing measures. A case of the coronavirus is deemed transmitted by “community spread” by public health officials when the source of the infection can’t be traced. 

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The changes come as a response to the spread of novel coronavirus and aim to provide support for the critical work of public health, said the governor’s office in a Tuesday press release.

“These are unprecedented times and the state of Iowa will do whatever is necessary to address this public health disaster. I have authorized all available state resources, supplies, equipment and materials to combat the spread of COVID-19,” Reynolds said in a release.

The release also directs all state agencies to coordinate with each other in order to develop plans that mitigate the economic effects of these closings. This may include financial support, regulatory relief, and other executive actions, it stated.

“The actions taken today are necessary to protect the health and safety of all Iowans and are critical to mitigating the spread of the virus,” Reynolds said in the release.