Governor Reynolds orders schools to hold in-person classes as COVID-19 spikes across the state

By: 
Travis Fischer

Governor Kim Reynolds issued a new emergency proclamation on Friday, July 17 declaring that schools must prioritize having in-person classes when the school year begins next month.

     "One of the most important milestones in our recovery effort is getting Iowa students back to school," said Reynolds. "While we all know that the school year will be different than it's ever been before, it's critical that we prioritize getting children back into the classroom safely and responsibly."

     Since summer began, school districts in Iowa have been trying to determine how to best provide an education to students in a safe environment. While some districts have taken steps to increase social distancing within the classroom while being ready to offer distance learning if necessary, other districts, such as Iowa City Community School District, have made plans to avoid splitting their attention and resources by committing exclusively to distance learning for next year.

     The governor's proclamation complicates these plans, reasserting that learning for core academic subjects, such as math, science, reading, and social studies, must be held in-person. Under the proclamation, schools will only be authorized to provide remote learning services under certain conditions.

     While parents can always ask the school to enroll their child in remote learning on an individual basis, districts will not be able to switch exclusively to remote learning without permission from the state. Approval from the Iowa Department of Education, with consultation from the Iowa Department of Public Health, will be required before a district can temporarily move to primarily remote learning.

     "I know that this is not going to be easy. I know that it's going to require some changes to how things are done in the classroom," said Reynolds. "But given the importance of education to our children and the people of Iowa, we owe it to them to roll up our sleeves and get our schools back up and running."

     This mandate comes as COVID-19 continues its spread across the state.

     As of Sunday, July 12, there have been 38,707 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iowa, increasing the 35,070 total from the week prior by 3,637 cases. The number of new cases has held steady from the previous week, which set a record for new cases in that seven day period.

     In total, an estimated 1,548 elderly adults (age 80+), 4,665 older adults (61-80), 11,612 middle aged adults (41-60), 18,966 young adults (18-40), and 2,322 children have tested positive for the disease. These estimates are based on a percentage-based breakdown of the state's reported positive cases. As the total number of cases increase, the less accurate these estimates will become. A single percentage point difference can change an estimate by more than 380 cases.

     With 27,880 cases considered recovered, that leaves roughly 10,000 Iowans currently known to be fighting the disease.

     For testing, 416,736 Iowans have been tested since the start of the pandemic, with more than 5,800 tests on average per day over the last week.

     Current testing shows that roughly 63% of positive cases result in symptoms while 13% have been asymptomatic, with the remaining cases pending or unknown.

     In addition, 37,180 Iowans have undergone serology testing for coronavirus antibodies, which would indicate that they have had the virus. Of that number, 2,595, about 7%, have tested positive for antibodies.

     The number of severe cases of COVID-19 also continues to climb, with 214 currently hospitalized and 75 patients in an ICU, showing a sharp increase from the previous week.

     The death rate of the virus spiked again last week, with 44 new deaths bringing the total to 794. Approximately 373 elderly, 318 older adults, 73 middle aged adults, and 24 young adults have died from the virus since the pandemic began.

     Of the deaths, 420 have been attributed to people in long term care facilities.

     After several weeks on the decline, the number of outbreaks reported in long term care facilities remains at 16 this week. However, the number of cases of COVID-19 in these facilities has increased from 334 to 415.

 

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