Iowa governor expands business closures amid increasing COVID-19 spread

Gov. Kim Reynolds called for a closure of certain retail businesses, as well as a delay in nonessential surgical and dental procedures.


Tate Hildyard

South Clinton St. is seen empty on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020. The spread of coronavirus in Johnson county has been named a public health emergency.(Tate Hildyard/The Daily Iowan.)

Naomi Hofferber, Arts Reporter

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday said she would expand her order for businesses to remain closed through April 7, extending her directive to encompass more types of shops.

Reynolds announced at a press conference that starting at 10 p.m. Thursday, bookstores, clothing and shoe stores, jewelry stores, cosmetic and beauty-supply stores, florists, and furniture and home-furnishing stores must close until April 7. All existing closures now will extend until April 7. 

The governor’s order comes as Iowa has seen its largest daily increase in positive COVID-19 cases, with 34 new cases announced Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 179. Currently, the Iowa Department of Public Health reports there are 31 hospitalized, 15 discharged and recovering, and one death from COVID-19 across the state. 

All existing closures and the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people will now extend until April 7.

The closures have prompted thousands of unemployment claims in Iowa, Reynolds said. There were 40,952 unemployment claims filed between March 8-21, she said, and over $10.6 million in unemployment insurance was paid out for initial claims this past week. 

“We are continuing to assess every aspect of the situation every day, and we will do whatever is necessary to protect the health and safety of Iowans and support the stability of our economy for the long term,” Reynolds said.

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend said the accommodations and food-service industry had the largest portion of unemployment claims, with more than 13,000 claims. 

Starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Reynolds announced, all nonessential and elective surgeries that can be delayed are suspended, as well as nonemergency dental and orthodontic procedures, in efforts to preserve personal protective equipment and the medical workforce. 

The Iowa National Guard, Reynolds said, is being deployed to deliver equipment throughout the state of Iowa.

Reynolds also ordered that insurance companies must reimburse telehealth visits at the same rate that they would in-person visits. She also called for enhanced health screenings for health-care facilities and nursing homes.