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Iowa now has 16 COVID-19 cases, 15 are linked to Egyptian cruise; no plans to restrict access to statehouse

DES MOINES — Two more positive cases of COVID-19 has been identified in Iowa and both are at home in isolation. One is from Carroll County and the other is from Johnson County. Both are older adults who were on the same Egyptian cruise as 14 other positive cases in the Johnson County area.

The other case of COVID-19, confirmed earlier this week, is from Pottawattamie County. It’s a restaurant employee who recently traveled to California.

While a string of high-profile events have been cancelled nationwide over the past two days, Iowa public health officials are not recommending school or event cancellations. The state capitol in Des Moines remains open to the public and the 2020 legislative session is underway, bringing hundred of people into the building most weekdays.

“As of right now, we don’t plan to make any drastic changes, but this has been a very fluid situation…We’re taking our time, making the best decisions possible,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, a Republican from Ankeny, said early this afternoon.

The senate is nimble, he said, and will take action if public health officials say it’s warranted.

“Right now, the cases that we have in Iowa — we know exactly where those people got the virus,” Whitver said. “Once it goes to ‘community spread’ — meaning you don’t know where you got it, it’s just spreading throughout the community — that certainly creates a different conversation…I’m not a doctor. We’re trying to work with the experts to make the best decision possible.”

House Speaker Pat Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford, said until the governor and public health officials recommend it, there are no plans to restrict activities in the capitol.

“We’re relying on people that have this as their profession to give us the advice. I will continue to go to them and not just rush to any sort of judgement,” Grassley told reporters earlier today. “I think that the Department of Public Health and the governor have the best interests of Iowans in mind.”

Legislative leaders from both parties say they’re prepared to adjust state spending plans if there’s a need to dedicate more money to the public health response to the outbreak. Representative Chris Hall of Sioux City is the top-ranking Democrat on the House committee that develops budget plans.

“The governor’s office has been working with legislative leaders of both parties to make sure that they’re informed of the different public health programs need to be bolstered,” Hall told reporters today. “We will follow her recommendations and I think the cooperative effort has been good so far.”

But Hall said with the looming economic hit of a pandemic, now is not the time to cut taxes That’s one of the components of Governor Reynolds’ “Invest in Iowa Act” that raises the sales tax and cuts income taxes.



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