DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a new PR campaign to enlist Iowans’ help to stop the spread of COVID-19 leading to hospitalizations doubling over the course of a couple of weeks and Reynolds to issue new mitigation measures.
She announced the campaign during a press conference at Iowa PBS studios in Johnston.
“It’s more important now than ever to reach as many Iowans as possible with information about what they can do to stop the spread of the virus,” Reynolds said. “If everyone does their part, we’ll get life back to normal and keep our businesses open, our kids in school, our hospitals stable and our essential workforce healthy.”
Several notable Iowans join the Governor in the campaign’s television spots, including:
- Tom Vilsack, former Governor of Iowa and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture;
- Dan Gable, legendary Iowa wrestling coach, Olympic gold medalist, and recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom;
- Carson King, Carson King Foundation;
- Suresh Gunasekaran, CEO, University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics; and
- Katie Witt, a Test Iowa nurse.
The state leveraged special programs and pricing for government and non-profit organizations to deliver its public awareness message through Iowa’s newspapers, radio, and television stations. The campaign totals approximately $440,000 funded through Iowa’s CARES Act allocation.
The state worked with the Iowa Newspaper Association (INA) to place ads in its more than 250 member newspapers and online publications across the state. It extended the campaign’s reach to include Spanish and specialty publications. Newspaper ads started earlier this month and will run through the end of the year.
The state also leveraged the Iowa Broadcasters Association’s (IBA) Public Education Partnerships Program for broadcasting educational messages statewide. Television and radio spots will be available to more than 200 IBA member stations through mid-March.
Reynolds said there was a slight decline in the COVID-19 numbers, but it was too early to be overly optimistic.
“Over the last seven days, Iowa has seen an increase of more than 22,000 new COVID-19 cases and an average statewide positivity rate of 17.5 percent. This is a decrease from the seven days prior when new cases total 36,000, and the average positivity rate was 28 percent,” she said.
“At a county level, we’re seeing that positivity rates are beginning to stabilize in many areas. These are welcome signs. And while we may be cautiously optimistic, we have a whole lot of work to do to bring the numbers down to a level where we can safely manage the virus while getting life back to normal,” Reynolds said.
She noted that hospitalizations remain high in the state, currently 1,447 down from over 1520 patients hospitalized on Wednesday.
“Yesterday was the first day in weeks where we saw a slight decrease in the overall number of hospital Iowans hospitalized. So this gives us hope as well. But one day is far, far, far from a downward trend. Over the next week, it will be critical that we see hospitalization rates began to stabilize every day,” Reynolds warned.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, of 1078 Iowans currently hospitalized with COVID-19, the coronavirus was their primary diagnosis. For 369 Iowans, they were hospitalized for other reasons when testing positive for COVID-19. IDPH also reports that 72 percent of those hospitalized are 60 years-of-age or older.
Also of concern are the 114 outbreaks among Iowa’s long term care facilities. Long-term care facilities are considered to have an outbreak when there are three or more positive cases of COVID 19 in the facility.
Reynolds said she allocated $14 million in Cares Act funding to support increased PCR and antigen testing in Iowa’s LTC facilities.