In a press conference Wednesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds addressed Iowa’s progress with the COVID-19 pandemic. She indicated that the state’s handling of the pandemic was going well and that recovery was trending in “a positive direction on all fronts.”
Out of Iowa’s 99 counties, 87 have 14-day positivity rates below 10 percent and long-term care facility outbreaks are currently at 29, Reynolds reported. COVID-19 hospitalizations are down 85 percent from the high point in mid-November. Due to these improvements, Mercy Hospital in Des Moines is now able to close its dedicated COVID intensive care unit.
Reynolds said while Iowa’s COVID-19 numbers are decreasing, the state’s administration of the vaccine will continue to improve. She cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker to report that Iowa currently ranks 22nd in the United States for the percentage of vaccines administered. Iowa has administered 485,710 doses of the 615,000 they were allocated for a rate of 79 percent. Reynolds said the state numbers, which are more up to date, show that Iowa is closer to 500,000 administered now.
In order to further improve Iowa’s distribution, Reynolds announced that the weekly vaccine allocations would be withheld for the five counties that had administration rates below 80 percent in order to give their health officials time to administer their remaining supply. These counties had hundreds of unused doses on hand and had administration rates from 25-53 percent.
Reynolds also shared some information from the White House regarding the vaccines. Reportedly, an additional 2.5 million doses will be available on top of the existing 11 million. From this national increase, Iowa’s allocation of 49,900 doses this week will go up to 62,000 next week. The White House also announced it expects a decision from the Food and Drug Administration by the end of February about the authorization of Johnson and Johnson’s one-dose vaccine.
In addition to the pandemic, Reynolds spoke about the weather crisis facing the central and south United States. Back-to-back winter storms have caused dangerously low temperatures across the region and damaged infrastructure in states like Texas that are not prepared for such weather. Some of Iowa’s energy supply comes from Texas so Reynolds has signed proclamations that will ease propane transport rules in Iowa and temporarily lift regulations for service hours of delivery drivers.
Kelly Garcia, the interim director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, said that due to the weather crisis, there will be supply chain issues for the vaccine and Polk County may have a drop in their initial vaccine allocations. However, she said they expect that to be made up later in the week when the weather is warmer.
Near the end of the press conference, Reynolds was asked to characterize where Iowa is at now. Her statements from the beginning of the conference were compared to her statements from June when she said we were in the recovery phase. Reynolds called this a mischaracterization and claimed she has always encouraged Iowans to follow social distancing policies.