JOHNSTON, IOWA — Governor Kim Reynolds on Wednesday urged Iowa parents to lobby their school boards and school leaders to bring kids back to the classroom full-time despite the pandemic. At the same time, she extended her own State Public Health Emergency Declaration to limit crowds and require face masks in most public settings due to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Reynolds’ ongoing Public Health Emergency Declaration was due to expire on Thursday. The governor extended it for another week on Wednesday, adding new stipulations requiring a 10pm “last call” at any establishment that serves alcohol, including casinos. It also limits fan attendance at youth sporting and music events and requires masks to be worn indoors depending on a how many people are in the building and whether they are from the same home. The governor also eased restrictions on elective surgeries that were put in place as Iowa faced a hospital bed shortage in November.
Iowa’s statewide positive rate has been slowly declining for weeks after reaching record high levels in mid-November. The number of outbreaks at Iowa long term care facilities remains high but the governor is offering them some relief. Reynolds announced Thursday that all of the state’s more than four-hundred long term care facilities will be receiving a free month’s supply of PPE in the coming days.
While imposing continued limits on private businesses to slow the spread of the virus, the governor simultaneously pleaded a case for Iowa schools to return more kids to the classroom. Reynolds says statistics show that children have the lowest infection rates and rarely spread the virus to each other. “Transmission within schools occurs most often between staff members, less often among staff and students and it rarely occurs from student to student,” Reynolds said.
Governor Reynolds says a voluntary survey of Iowa schools conducted by the Iowa Department of Education found similar results in Iowa. The Governor did not say how many schools responded to the survey. WHO 13 has reached out to the Department of Education for more details on the survey.
In Iowa, the age group with the highest infection rates are those ages 18-60. The majority of Iowa’s teaching population would fall into that group. Many schools have filed for online waivers due to a lack of available educators due to positive coronavirus tests among staff and quarantine of those potentially exposed to it.
Governor Reynolds welcomed Ankeny resident and parent Sarah Barthole to speak at the news conference about the stresses of virtual schooling that she and thousands of other parents statewide share. Barthole has started a group to lobby Ankeny school leaders to return students to class full-time. Governor Reynolds encouraged more Iowans to follow Barthole’s lead and lobby their own school leaders to return students to class full-time.
Under legislation passed earlier this year, school districts are only required to offer in-person instruction only half-time right now. They must also offer a virtual only option for parents. Governor Reynolds says she must operate under that legislation for the time being but said things could change when lawmakers return to the State Capitol in January.
“I encourage parents out there to talk to your school boards, talk to your educators and lets get our kids back in school,” the Governor said as she wrapped the news conference.