JOHNSTON — Movies, culture and camping soon will be back on Iowans’ to-do lists but it will be at least next week before they can head back to their neighborhood bars and likely longer before they’re enjoying amusement park rides or placing bets at an Iowa casino.
Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday said the coronavirus pandemic has stabilized enough in the state for her to allow indoor movie theaters, zoos, museums, aquariums and wedding reception venues to resume operations Friday — but only with public health measures to ensure social distancing and proper hygiene.
Also, swimming pools will be allowed to open for lap swimming and lessons — but not all, including Cedar Rapids municipal pools — will.
Bars and other establishments that serve alcohol will have to wait until May 28 to resume operations with restrictions. And starting June 1, schools can offer school-sponsored activities and learning — including high-school baseball and softball — as long as precautions are in place.
“We have to move forward,” Reynolds told her daily briefing at the state’s emergency operations center. “We have to recognize that the virus is in our communities and we have to learn to navigate that until or if a vaccine is discovered. And Iowans are doing that and we’re being responsible in the way that we’re doing that.
“I believe that it doesn’t have to be either or. We can protect the health of Iowans as well as their livelihood and the health of our economy,” the governor added, telling reporters “we have the resources to manage any kind of an uptick or surge.”
The decision means the public has a second chance to see the Impressionism exhibitions at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, likely beginning in mid-June.
“Across the Atlantic: American Impressionism through the French Lens,” on loan from the Reading Public Museum in Pennsylvania, has been extended through Aug. 30, and “Ooh La La: French Works from the Riley Collection,” will remain in its second-floor gallery through Aug. 16.
“I am thrilled that the governor has allowed museums to reopen,” said Sean Ulmer, executive director at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. “People need art and culture now more than ever. Cultural institutions have a way of helping the healing process.”
When the museum reopens, all staff and guests will be required to wear masks and practice physical distancing. Reservations won’t be required.
The National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa — which initially made plans to open last weekend — is revved up for visitors ages 16 and older to come starting Friday.
Staff and patrons will be limited to half-capacity and must follow health guidelines. The staff will be wearing masks, and guests are asked to wear their own masks or buy one at the door for $1. The museum will accept only credit and debit cards.
Some other museums, including the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids, will continue to monitor the reopening process across the state before setting a reopening date, said Executive Director LaNisha Cassell.
The museum is “prioritizing the safety and well-being of our staff, volunteers and patrons by establishing clear reopening strategies in a phased process after clear communications have been provided to all concerned parties,” she said.
Reynolds’ proclamation does not reopen casinos or amusement parks in Iowa, but she noted discussions are underway to decide when and how those can resume.
State officials also announced that state parks around Iowa will open modern restrooms, shower buildings and cabins starting Friday for Memorial Day weekend. Campgrounds will be open for all campers, including RVs, pop-ups and tent camping.
The governor said bars and other establishments that have been limited to carryout and delivery of alcoholic beverages will be permitted to reopen May 28 for indoor or outdoor seating at half capacity. They also must follow the same public health measures and business guidance that restaurants have implemented.
Matt Harding, marketing manager at Iowa Brewing Company in Cedar Rapids, said the business would wait until June 3 to reopen its taproom, allowing more time to get safety and training in place.
“We just didn’t feel the need to rush into it, since this is probably going to be the new normal for a while,” he said.
The brewery has been getting by on curbside beer pickup and delivery.
“We’ve seen some amazing support from the community, which has helped us keep the lights on and keep people on payroll,” he said. “But it’s just not the same as having tap rooms open, so we’re excited to welcome customers back.”
Since May 1, openings of businesses, cultural facilities and retail activities gradually have been phased in as the trend lines for positive COVID-19 cases have improved but not totally abated — leaving Iowans to proceed with a cautious uneasiness as restrictions begin to relax.
The governor began the process by allowing partial re-openings of restaurants, malls, fitness centers and other establishment in 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties where virus activity was slowing, minimal or not confirmed. She further lifted the restrictions statewide and added hair salons, tattoo parlors, massage therapists, barbershops and others to the list of closed businesses that were allowed to resume operations with caveats.
Reynolds’ latest reopening proclamation came on a day when the number of Iowans who have died due to the coronavirus outbreak was on the rise again.
Data on the state Department of Public Health’s coronavirus.iowa.gov website indicated that as Wednesday morning, the death count grew by 16 over the past 24 hours to a total of 383 fatalities since the respiratory ailment was confirmed March 8 in Iowa.
Three deaths each were reported in Black Hawk, Tama and Woodbury counties, while Polk County had two and there were one each in Dubuque, Louisa, Mahaska, Monroe, Muscatine and Pottawattamie counties.
Iowa had 15,533 confirmed cases of coronavirus — an increase of 237 in the past day. That total was slightly more than 14 percent of the overall tests conducted in Iowa, More than half — 8,211 — have recovered from the disease, according to state officials. Iowa tests have produced 94,420 negative results.
As of Wednesday morning, 381 Iowans were hospitalized (including 35 new admissions) with coronavirus-related illnesses, with 126 in intensive care and 84 requiring ventilators to assist their breathing.
Polk County has had the highest number of deaths in the state at 85, and the most positive cases with 3,221. Linn County has reported 72 deaths, followed by Black Hawk and Muscatine counties both with 34, Tama County with 21 deaths and Woodbury County with 18.
Woodbury has the second-highest number of positive COVID-19 cases with 2,353, followed by Black Hawk County with 1,634 and Linn County with 900.
Decatur County is the only remaining one of Iowa’s counties not to report a confirmed case.
Iowans between the ages of 18 and 40 still represents the group with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases, at 42 percent, followed by 36 percent of those 41 to 60 and 14 percent of those 61 to 80.
Reynolds told reporters Wednesday that Iowa’s COVID-19 numbers are stabilizing, that the positive cases are not overwhelming the health care system, aggressive testing is enabling officials to address outbreaks and “hot spots,” and the resources are in place to manage the pandemic.
Reynolds was asked during her briefing about President Donald Trump’s decision to take the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to prevent coronavirus infection, even though it has not been proven, and what advice state health officials are giving Iowans about the drug.
Reynolds said “that’s a personal decision that Iowans will make in consultation with their doctor.” Added Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health: “That’s not a recommended treatment at this particular point in time and so it’s not a recommendation of the state health department.”
Alison Gowans, John McGlothlen and Diana Nollen of The Gazette contributed to this report.
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