Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds: Vaccine rollout begins, some gathering restrictions lifted

In a press conference Wednesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced updates on the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine and lifted some restrictions on restaurants, bars, and gatherings.


Katina Zentz

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

Caleb McCullough, Politics Editor

About 500 health-care workers across Iowa have already received the coronavirus vaccine, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday. Reynolds also announced loosened restrictions on bars, restaurants, and gatherings.

The state began rolling out doses of the recently-approved Pfizer vaccines Monday, with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and UnityPoint Des Moines receiving the first shipments. MercyOne and Genesis hospitals have also received vaccines, Reynolds said.

Health-care workers are the first to receive the vaccine, and long-term care residents and staff will follow afterward. Essential infrastructure workers, like those in schools, food supply, and corrections facilities, will be in the next phase.

It will be several months before the vaccine is made available to everybody, and Reynolds said Iowans need to remain vigilant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 until enough people are vaccinated.

“For now we must continue to be patient for a few more months as the vaccine supply increases along with the number of people who will be receiving it,” Reynolds said at a Wednesday press conference.

Clint Hawthorne, the director of the emergency department for UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, received the vaccine on Tuesday. He said he’s hopeful that this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic, but he advised Iowans to still follow public-health guidelines.

Hawthorne and Reynolds both said they trust the safety of the vaccine, and Hawthorne said those who have questions should talk to their health-care provider for reliable information about the vaccine.

“The more who are vaccinated, the more effective we will be at slowing the spread,” Hawthorne said. “It is a safe and effective way you can be a part of bringing COVID-19 under control.”

Reynolds said she plans to be vaccinated after health-care workers and long-term care residents and staff, and she will announce publicly when she receives the vaccine.

The state will soon begin sharing data on how many Iowans have received the vaccine, Reynolds said, similar to the way COVID-19 cases are reported.

A second vaccine, from Moderna, will undergo approval processes this week. Iowa Department of Human Services director Kelly Garcia said if approved, the vaccine could begin being administered in Iowa by Monday.

Lifting restrictions

Reynolds announced that the 10 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants will be lifted Dec. 17, and they can begin full operations. Social distancing requirements for patrons will remain in place, and they must be seated while eating or drinking and distanced six feet from other parties.

Spectators at high school, youth, and adult sporting events will be expanded, allowing members of participants’ household. General gathering limitations will also be lifted, but people gathering must still maintain six feet of distance from one another.