Governor announces wave of reopenings ahead of Memorial Day
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Pool photo by Olivia Sun
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said a number of businesses from movie theaters to museums and bars will see eased COVID-19 restrictions in the coming weeks. Theaters, zoos, aquariums, museums and wedding reception venues may resume operations Friday, so long as appropriate viral mitigation measures are in place. Swimming pools will also be able to open again for lap swimming and lessons, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will be opening some of its facilities as of Friday. Bars and other locations serving alcohol which the governor previously limited to carry out or delivery service may open their indoor and outdoor seating areas at half seating capacity as of Thursday, May 28 — three days after Memorial Day. They will also need to take recommended health measures. The governor's current emergency declaration measures are scheduled to end May 27.
"Business owners across Iowa are eager to get back to work," Reynolds said. "They understand and they accept the added responsibility to protect their employees and their customers, and I believe Iowans are willing to continue to do their part as well."
The governor also said she expects school sponsored activities and learning may resume as of June 1 — this would include high school baseball and softball games, so long as appropriate public health measures are taken. Reynolds said the state continues to work with the Iowa High School Athletic Association and other youth sports associations to plan for the upcoming sports season.
"I know that many parents and youth athletes are also eager to resume summer sports," Reynolds said. "High school athletics was the logical place to start the process of bringing athletics back in season."
As of the governor's press conference, Iowa's total cases of COVID-19 had reached about 15,500. Statewide recoveries numbered around 8,260 and Iowa's total deaths from the virus were shown to be 383 — making for a little more than 6,800 active cases across the state. Two additional cases had been reported in Dickinson County as of the governor's Wednesday announcement. Each of the county's previous six positive had been listed as recovered in late April. The governor said the state has since achieved its goal of reaching a testing capacity of 5,000 tests per day thanks to expanding the Test Iowa program.
"Our collective work as Iowans to mitigate, contain and manage virus activity in our communities is generating the type of results that enable us to ease restrictions, open businesses and get our state back to work safely and responsibly," Reynolds said.
Kayla Lyon, director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said the DNR has seen an uptick in the use of state parks and wildlife areas — be it for hiking or hunting — during the COVID-19 pandemic, which happened to arrive during the state park system's centennial year. She said, with Memorial Day approaching, the public is encouraged to maintain social distancing measures while in the parks, but she said the DNR will be opening all modern restrooms, shower buildings and cabins at Iowa's state parks starting Friday.
"This means campgrounds will be open for all campers, including RVs, popups and tent camping, but campers will notice some stipulations," Lyon said. "Youth group camp sites will remain closed as well as shelters, lodges, playgrounds, other group camps, museums and visitor centers."
Lyon also said only campers with site reservations will be allowed on the camp site — no visitors — and overnight occupancy is limited to six people unless an immediate family is larger than six people. Communal picnic tables and grills will be available at the user's own risk, and beaches will be open but will also be closely monitored.
"It is our hope that we can revisit these restrictions as things evolve," Lyon said.
Reynolds reminded the public the eased restrictions are not a mandate for businesses to open, nor do Iowans have to visit them if they feel the virus still poses a potential risk to themselves or their family members.
"It's up to Iowans to decide when they're ready to resume normal activities, but it will continue to take all of us working together and practicing personal responsibility to keep virus activity at a manageable level and balance health and safety with getting business and life back to normal," the governor said.