Kim Reynolds

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a statewide mask mandate Nov. 16 as COVID-19 cases in Iowa continue to increase.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds hosted a press conference Tuesday to provide updates on the COVID-19 response in Iowa. The press conference followed a rare televised primetime address by the governor and the implementation of new pandemic mitigation measures at midnight Monday night.

She began the press conference by reiterating the mitigation measures announced Monday night. These include a requirement to wear a mask when you’re indoors and unable to social distance for longer than 15 minutes, a prohibition on large indoor and outdoor gatherings, the closing of bars and restaurants by 10 p.m. and the cancellation of youth and recreation sports.

Reynolds also provided clarification about the mask mandate, which many have reported to be unclear or confusing. Much of the confusion comes due to the fact that the governor’s proclamation differs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, which encourages people to wear a mask any time they are public around other people.

Under Iowa’s proclamation, masks are only required if an individual is indoors and unable to social distance for longer than 15 minutes, but not in other circumstances.

“If you’re just running in and you can social distance, you don’t have to wear [a mask],” Reynolds said.

However, Reynolds encouraged people to err on the side of caution, saying that doing so is one way Iowans can continue doing the right thing.

“If you’re confused, just put the mask on,” Reynolds said.

When asked if she believed masks were effective, Reynolds said she believed they were, but there is different science on both sides. A spokesperson for the governor clarified shortly after the press conference Reynolds meant there are different viewpoints, but the governor disagrees with Iowans who believe masks are not effective.

The new mitigation measures come more than nine months after the first emergence of the pandemic, as the state breaches 2,000 deaths and nearly 4,000 new cases per day, making COVID-19 the third leading cause of death in Iowa.

“We’re at a critical point,” Reynolds said. “If we don’t flatten the curve, we run the risk of extending our hospitals to overcapacity.”

Reynolds also discussed the prospects of a vaccine and other treatments, following reports that both Pfizer and Moderna have reported vaccine effectiveness rates of greater than 90 percent in third-stage clinical testing.

In particular, Reynolds pointed to a shortage in convalescent plasma, a treatment for COVID-19 that uses plasma from individuals who have recovered from the illness, which received emergency FDA authorization in August.

“Convalescent plasma therapy is in short supply,” Reynolds said. “But is easily replenishable by those who have had the virus.”

Christine Hayes, vice president of operations for LifeServe Blood Center, said need is outpacing demand, and the state’s supply of convalescent plasma could be depleted as soon as Dec. 1. As the virus surges across the country, it’s unlikely Iowa will be able to receive any further supply from other states.

Hayes stressed the need for people who have recovered from the illness to become volunteer plasma donors rather than selling plasma to a private company.

“Paid plasma [companies] are important for pharmaceutical generation,” Hayes said. “But transfusable convalescent plasma must come from a volunteer donor.”

Reynolds concluded by again appealing to Iowans to step up and take personal responsibility for combating the pandemic.

“It’s not where we want to be,” Reynolds said. “But we need everyone to step up and do the right thing, and if they do that, we will get through this.”

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