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Governor defends rally as Iowa’s virus death toll tops 1,500

October 15, 2020 GMT
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President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally at Des Moines International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally at Des Moines International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa set another record Thursday for people being treated in hospitals for COVID-19, but Gov. Kim Reynolds said the health care system was managing well and there was no need for new actions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The number of people hospitalized rose to 482 as the state reported 1,410 new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours. There were 13 more deaths, raising the state’s death toll to 1,505 since the pandemic began.

Despite the increasing hospitalization numbers and persistently high number of cases, Reynolds said hospitals hadn’t sought additional help and that she doesn’t plan to re-impose restrictions that she has eased in recent months.

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“I think we have to learn to normalize our lives. We have to learn to live with it and we have to do it in a safe and responsible manner. I think we can do that,” she said.

Reynolds took questions from reporters a day after participating in an outdoor rally for President Donald Trump at the Des Moines airport. Thousands of supporters packed closely together for several hours, and while masks were given to participants, many didn’t appear to wear them.

The governor said she wore a mask most of the time but occasionally removed it.

Asked why she would promote and attend an event that appeared to violate her own health emergency proclamation against large gatherings, Reynolds said her orders were never intended to keep people from exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceably gather.

“That’s what took place last night. We continue to say social distance and if you can’t, wear a face mask. I had mine on. I was role-modeling that that’s what you’re supposed to do and many of the individuals that were there had the face mask on,” she said. “It is the right of Iowans and Americans to do that.”

According to statistics released Thursday, virus outbreaks were reported in 61 long-term care facilities. Only four of Iowa’s 99 counties had a positivity rate below 5%, the level at which many public health officials recommend mask-wearing, social distancing measures and limits on crowd sizes.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Iowa has risen over the past two weeks, from 17.18% on Sept. 30 to 19.58% on Oct. 14, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Iowa’s rate is the sixth-highest in the nation.

Reynold spoke alongside U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, who visited Iowa on Thursday.

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His message also was to avoid large indoor crowds, which he said includes family and neighborhood gatherings at Thanksgiving.

“We’re seeing an increasing number of community spread throughout the Midwest, Upper Midwest and the Plains from these types of casual household gatherings. You need to protect yourself, protect your household and protect vulnerable individuals in your household,” he said.

Azar said hand washing, maintaining distance from others and wearing masks were important as companies work to produce treatments such as monoclonal antibodies, which Trump received, and a vaccine.

His advice also included getting a flu shot and to donate blood. For those who have had COVID-19, Azar asked them to consider donating blood plasma, which can be used to develop the antibody treatment for others.

Azar outlined a timeline in which he foresees the manufacture of nearly 100 million doses of an FDA approved vaccine from various manufacturers by the end of the year. He speculated that a vaccine would go first to vulnerable people and health care providers before wider distribution in the spring.

“It’s going to be a progressive ramping up of production supply and distribution,” he said