Iowa State continues testing strategy into the spring semester.

In a press conference held Thursday to provide an update on COVID-19 in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced $14 million in CARES Act funding for long-term care facilities in response to the rising number of outbreaks there and continued to encourage Iowans to take steps to help slow the spread of coronavirus. She also announced Test Iowa sites will be closed on Thanksgiving.

Under the state’s criteria for determining an outbreak, 94 long-term care facilities are currently experiencing an outbreak with an additional 20 moving into that status later on Thursday, and 434 such facilities operate in the state.

Reynolds made no mention of her decision announced Wednesday night to allow group fitness classes to proceed as long as they were socially distanced, a reversal of their prohibition in the proclamation that went into effect on Tuesday.

Thursday’s press conference comes as the United States surpassed 250,000 dead from coronavirus, a number many experts dispute as underreported, and more than the total number of American soldiers killed in combat during World War I. The Des Moines Register reported Thursday morning if Iowa were a country, it would rank 28th in the world for coronavirus hot spots.

Reynolds said the seven-day total for new cases and the seven-day average positivity rate were lower than the preceding seven days, and the number of Iowans hospitalized decreased for the first time in that period. She said 74 percent of people hospitalized are aged 65 and older, which highlights the need to protect the most vulnerable.

Reynolds said while the decrease in reported numbers of earlier periods is welcome, there is still much to be done to stop the spread of the pandemic.

“One day is far, far, far from a downward trend,” Reynolds said.

Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the Iowa Department of Public Health’s medical director, encouraged Iowans to continue to take precautions after testing positive for the virus or being exposed to someone who has tested positive, even within their own household.

Pedati encouraged Iowans who test positive to stay home for 10 days from the beginning of their symptoms or from their positive test result if they have no symptoms. She also reminded Iowans to quarantine for 14 days if they are exposed to the virus, even if they receive a negative test result. 

“You could still be incubating the virus,” Pedati said.

With the holiday season approaching, Reynolds encouraged Iowans to continue following the basic prevention steps, such as social distancing and washing their hands.

“It’s even more important now to blanket every corner of the state with this message,” Reynolds said.

The state plans to accomplish this with PSAs in newspapers, on the radio and on television featuring prominent Iowans who are “uniquely qualified to carry the message.” 

These individuals include Reynolds herself, former Iowa governor and Obama administration agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics CEO Suresh Gunasekaran, Test Iowa nurse Katie Whit, Olympic wrestler and UI coach Dan Gable and Carson King, the former Iowa State University student who transitioned viral fame from his ESPN Game Day plea for beer money into massive donations to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.

In a PSA shared during the press conference, those prominent Iowans pleaded, largely unmasked, with Iowans to continue following the mitigation measures such as mask wearing, hand washing and getting a flu shot.

“Be mindful of who you’re bringing in...practice mitigation efforts,” Reynolds said of Iowans gathering for the upcoming holiday. “Iowans will do the right thing.”

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