DES MOINES — Governor Kim Reynolds will allow the COVID-19 disaster declaration to expire next week. Reynolds said in a statement Thursday that the state cannot treat COVID-19 as a public health emergency indefinitely.
Iowa Department of Public Health director Kelly Garcia talked with reporters Thursday about the move. “After nearly two years of experience with an ever-evolving virus — we have shifted our response and reporting several times. And that continues with our announcement today. Effective February 16th, so midnight February 15th, the state’s public health emergency declaration will expire,” Garcia says.
Garcia says the department has focused thousands of hours and dollars in responding to the pandemic. “A significant portion of those resources have been dedicated to COVID-19 reporting. Including the creation and maintenance of the state’s COVD website coronavirusIowa.gov. And the vaccine resource vaccinateIowa.gov,” she says. “It makes sense that with the expiration of the proclamation we would shift this reporting to an IDPH maintained website.”
The weekly reports on COVID-19 data will be published on the IDPH website, the state will no longer require long-term care facilities to notify the department when they have three or more infections in residents. IDPH will use CMS data to identify facilities with positive cases and will assist in infection control. The vaccine finder tool will also no longer be available.
“With this new phase, does it mean that we will stop thinking about COVID — no, not at all — this change is in line with more than half of other states, and we have been in contact with our regional and federal partners,” Garcia says. Garcia says COVID has not gone away and that is not what this move means.
“Does making COIVD normal mean that we are any less concerned with the health of Iowans? No, it means that we must shift to a more sustainable approach to allow our health professionals to manage this virus like we do others,” Garcia says.
Garcia says the change will allow them to focus on some things that have not gotten as much attention with all the attention paid to the virus. “There is a significant behavioral health crisis that is emerging from the pandemic. We continue to see delayed care for patients and an overtaxed workforce. And recently a significant increase in suicide deaths among young people in central Iowa. And we have made connections with federal partners and locals a messaging strategy and response to reach these young Iowans in crisis.”
Garcia says they made the decision after talking with health professionals and it was the ultimate decision of the governor to let the proclamation expire now.