First virus victim identified in Dallas County, governor says

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, left, issued sweeping temporary virus rules Tuesday morning, including the closing of bars and recreational facilities and moving restaurants to drive-through, carry-out and delivery only.

DES MOINES, Iowa — A Dallas County resident has been identified as a positive case of COVID-19, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Saturday night in a press conference.

Reynolds said the victim is “an older adult aged 61 to 80,” but the governor did not identify the person or his or her whereabouts in Dallas County more closely. A total of 18 Iowans have to date tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

“We are confident that we are now in community spread,” Reynolds said, “and we now have community spread in our state.” Community spread occurs when an infected person is identified but the source or provenance of the infection is unknown.

Due to the detection of community spread, there are new recommendations for individuals with underlying conditions, Reynolds said, and all Iowans should be prepared for cancellations and disruptions in routine activities.

She said leaders of institutions and organizers of events should begin to act on their contingency plans related to large gatherings, including church services. Iowans should not hold or attend large gatherings of more than 250 people and should consider making adjustments for smaller gatherings with high-risk groups.

Health care organizations should also review their contingency plans and consider how telehealth can support the needs of Iowans, Reynolds said.

The governor did not call for the closure of public schools but said the situation in the state remains “fluid” and subject to change.

“At this time, we are not recommending school closures,” she said, “but based on CDC guidance, if a school has a positive case in a student, faculty member or visitor, we recommend a short-term suspension of a few days for cleaning to mitigate spread of the virus.”

She said “significant absenteeism” could require a two-week to four-week closure of a school, and significant community spread could require a four-week to eight-week closure.

Reynolds said her office met Saturday with representatives of the grocery industry in order to strategize methods for allocating supplies, including temporarily lifting weight restrictions of semi-tractor trailers that deliver goods.

“I just think we need people to remain calm,” Reynolds said.

State Medical Director and Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati joined Reynolds at the news conference in order to answer a number of technical questions about testing, community spread, closures and related topics.

Pedati said Iowans should do their part to protect their health and the health of others by following these procedures:

  • Individuals 60 years of age and older with underlying conditions should stay at home and avoid gatherings or other situations of potential exposures, including travel to affected areas.
  • Consider personal social-distancing measures: avoid large gatherings and limit the number of attendees per gathering.
  • Consider working remotely or online when possible.
  • Encourage staff to telework (when feasible), particularly individuals at increased risk of severe illness.
  • Limit non-essential work travel and gatherings.
  • Follow CDC guidance regarding school closures if a school-based case is identified, implement short term suspension for school cleaning and contact tracing, and alter schedules to reduce student mixing. Cancel extracurricular activities as needed.

COVID-19 was first linked to an outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December, but cases have subsequently been identified in 135 countries, including the U.S.

The IDPH continues to encourage all Iowans to take the recommended precautions to prevent the spread of the virus:

  1. to wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20-30 second
  2. to cover your coughs and sneezes
  3. to stay home from work if you feel unwell

People who suspect they have contracted the coronavirus should call ahead to their doctor or health care provider to make arrangements for treatment. Iowans with questions of any kind should call the 24-hour call center by dialing 2-1-1 or visit the IDPH website. will update this story as information becomes available.


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