DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the final extension of the state’s Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamation on Thursday, announcing it will expire at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, February 15, 2022. The signed proclamation can be found here.
The proclamation was first issued in accordance with the Governor’s executive authority on March 17, 2020, to enable certain public health mitigation measures during the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over time, it included hundreds of provisions assembled in the midst of an emergency to quickly address a pandemic the nation knew little about. Today, the remaining 16 provisions focus primarily on lingering workforce issues exacerbated by the pandemic that are best addressed outside of emergency executive powers.
The State of Iowa is working with stakeholders in an effort to address pervasive workforce issues through more permanent solutions like legislation, rule changes, and grant programs.
“We cannot continue to suspend duly enacted laws and treat COVID-19 as a public health emergency indefinitely. After two years, it’s no longer feasible or necessary. The flu and other infectious illnesses are part of our everyday lives, and coronavirus can be managed similarly,” stated Gov. Reynolds. “State agencies will now manage COVID-19 as part of normal daily business, and reallocate resources that have been solely dedicated to the response effort to serve other important needs for Iowans.”
The expiration of Iowa’s Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamation will result in operational changes related to the COVID-19 response. The most noticeable change will be how data is reported publicly. The state’s two COVID-19 websites, coronavirus.iowa.gov and vaccinateiowa.gov, will be decommissioned on February 16, 2022, but information will remain accessible online through other state and federal resources.
“While our COVID-19 reporting will look different, Iowans should rest assured that the state health department will continue to review and analyze COVID-19 and other public health data daily, just as we always have,” stated Kelly Garcia, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). “The new format will include data points that Iowans are used to seeing, but moves us closer to existing reporting standards for other respiratory viruses. This new phase also assures that our teams, who have been deeply committed to the COVID-19 response, can return to their pre-pandemic responsibilities, and refocus on areas where the pandemic has taken a hard toll.”
IDPH will report relevant COVID-19 information weekly on its website, similar to how flu activity is reported. Data will include positive tests since March 2020 and in the last seven days, cases by county, an epidemiologic curve, variants by week and deaths since March 2020. Vaccine information, including total series and boosters completed, demographics for fully vaccinated Iowans, and vaccination by county, will also be reported. Aligning the agency’s reporting processes will create greater efficiency for its staff while continuing to provide important information to Iowans. The new report will be available starting February 16 at idph.iowa.gov.
The State of Iowa and its health care providers will also continue to report COVID-19 data as required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s COVID Data Tracker reports state-level data for cases, deaths, testing, vaccination and more. The site is available at coronavirus.gov or covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker.
The State Hygienic Lab will continue to operate the Test Iowa at Home program. As testing supply increases and more options for self-testing become available, the state will reassess the need for the program. For more information or to request an at-home test, visit testiowa.com.
States are not required to have a disaster proclamation in place to be eligible for federal coronavirus-related funding or resources. Iowa will continue to receive vaccine and therapeutic allocations as normal after the proclamation expires.
Nearly half of U.S. states have already discontinued their public health proclamations, and several more are set to expire in February if they aren’t renewed.
Republican lawmakers praised the move.
“At the grocery store, attending sporting events, or at school, Iowans are living, working, and going to school with the coronavirus as part of our daily life. We faced the adversity of Covid and now we must keep moving forward. I applaud the Governor taking this step,” State Rep. Michael Bousselot, R-Ankeny, tweeted.
“This is the right decision by Governor Reynolds. The pandemic is long behind us. While the federal government suppresses freedom by holding onto emergency powers long after the emergency has ended, I am proud to serve in a state that prizes liberty!” State Rep. Joe Mitchell, R-Mt. Pleasant, tweeted.
U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, criticized her decision.
“I share the desire of the Governor and all Iowans to have this pandemic behind us. As a working mom who has spent nearly two years navigating the threat of this virus with my own family, I also want us to get back to normal. But the Governor cannot, with the stroke of her pen, simply proclaim that normalcy,” she said.
“Rather than continuing to encourage Iowans to get their vaccines and boosters, which have proven to be the best way to avoid severe illness and death, the Governor is sending a message that Iowans have no more reason to be concerned about this virus, that the deaths of 156 Iowans reported in just this past week are ‘everyday’ occurrences, that the sacrifices of our frontline workers will now be considered ‘normal daily business,’ and that vaccine resources are no longer needed by the thousands of Iowans who remain unvaccinated,” Axne added.