Restaurants and other businesses in 77 Iowa counties are allowed to reopen as of today, May 1, 2020, even as the state marked consecutive record high, single-day coronavirus death totals and confirmed cases.
The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 14 deaths on Thursday, April 30, the highest single-day total so far, surpassing the previous day’s record high of 12 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
With another eight deaths reported on Friday, May 1, Iowa now has recorded 170 coronavirus deaths.
Also Friday, Iowa reported 740 new positive cases of COVID-19 — another record high — even as a backlog of test results has been acknowledged, bringing the state’s total to 7,885 confirmed cases.
Iowans will be able to pray and mourn the dead, while at the same time risking further spread of the highly transmissible virus, at churches throughout the state, after Governor Kim Reynolds lifted the 10-person limit on social gatherings for religious services statewide.
Reynolds indicated she would continue to participate in online services when asked by a reporter if she would attend church in-person this weekend, and many churches have notified members they will wait to reopen. The lifting of restrictions on religious services also applies to weddings and funerals, but not wedding receptions and funeral visitations.
More: Governor allows church services to resume without limit on numbers; plans to stay home
Greg Baker, executive vice president of the conservative Christian organization, The Family Leader, was allowed to speak at length during the governor’s press conference Friday. Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The Family Leader, has been a Republican candidate for governor and supporter of Reynolds.
“Jesus came to serve, and we want to serve, as well,” Baker said, as an online guest at the press conference.
Reynolds thanked The Family Leader “for the partnership and all you’re doing for churches across the state.” She acknowledged that some religious leaders will wait to reopen their churches.
Earlier this week, Reynolds announced she would partially lift restrictions on businesses in 77 counties on May 1, while extending limits on the 22 other counties to May 15.
Counties where the public health emergency order remains in place are: Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Dallas, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fayette, Henry, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Louisa, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Tama, Washington and Woodbury.
With no travel restrictions, even between counties considered “hot-spots,” such as Black Hawk County in northeastern Iowa, and Woodbury County in western Iowa, residents will be allowed to freely go to gyms, restaurants and other establishments that have reopened in those 77 counties.
Related: Reynolds partially reopens Iowa
In the 77 counties, the proclamation permits restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, race tracks and certain other retail establishments to reopen in a limited fashion with public health measures in place.
Those regulations call for operating at 50 percent of normal business capacity, limiting seating to six people at a table and prohibits self-service buffets or salad bars. Food courts or other common seating areas at malls must remain closed, though food establishments in malls can still offer carry-out service. Read the full proclamation.
Theaters, bars, casinos, museums, hair salons and tattoo parlors are among businesses that must remain closed throughout Iowa.
Farmers markets are allowed to open throughout the state.
More: Gov. Reynolds allows farmers markets, elective surgeries to resume
Reynolds defended Iowa’s $26 million, no-bid contract with a Utah business partnership to run Test Iowa, after reporters pointed out inaccurate results for the tests being used in Utah.
She conceded there is a backlog of test results, due to expanded testing in Iowa. Those results should be available for Iowans this weekend, Reynolds said.
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