Governor shifting coronavirus strategy to “managing and containing” virus

As she moves to partially reopen businesses in 22 more counties, Gov. Kim Reynolds said she is confident in the health-care system's ability to handle a surge in infections.


Katina Zentz

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

Caleb McCullough, Assistant Politics Editor

Gov. Kim Reynolds said she is shifting her coronavirus response strategy from mitigation to managing and containing the virus as she moves to partially reopen several retail businesses statewide Friday.

“Originally it really was about protecting Iowans, there were so many unknowns, and it was about managing our resources,” she said.

Reynolds said the original strategy was to prevent overloading the health-care system, and officials didn’t have a good understanding of what resources the state had available.

The shifting strategy means Reynolds is now confident Iowa has the resources to handle a surge in hospitalizations.

“We did put targeted mitigation efforts in place … and because of that, that bought us time so that we could put in place the infrastructure and the system to understand where those vents and beds and ICU beds were at, not only from a state perspective but from a regional perspective,” she said.

There are currently 151 patients hospitalized in ICU beds in the state with 583 total ICU beds available, according to the state coronavirus website.

Reynolds gave the green light to open a slew of new businesses Wednesday, including malls and retail establishments in the 22 counties that were not included in the partial reopening last week.

However, the state’s capacity to handle a surge has been questioned. In a previous interview with The Daily Iowan on May 4, Megan Srinivas, an infectious disease doctor in Fort Dodge, Iowa, said she expects reopening measures to increase the burden of an already strained hospital system.

Many patients hospitalized for the coronavirus end up in the ICU, Srinivas said. Right now, about 36 percent of hospitalized coronavirus patients are in ICU beds. With limited ICU beds available, a surge in patients could threaten the state’s capacity to handle them.

Additionally, specialists that can handle crisis patients are not evenly distributed around the state, which could put a strain on hospitals in more rural areas. Srinivas said she’s the only infectious disease doctor within a 70 mile radius of where she practices.

“Being able to have the critical care nurses, respiratory therapists, the critical care pulmonologist, infectious disease specialist, those are things that you need in the health-care workforce that we still have deficient supplies of in Iowa,” she said.

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