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Iowa’s Republican governor ending COVID public health emergency Feb. 15



FILE - Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds arrives to speak at the Iowa Capitol Press Association's legislative seminar, Jan. 4, 2022, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. A federal appeals court on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022 allowed the state to enforce a law that prevents local schools from imposing mask mandates, but the court also allowed a group of parents of disabled children to pursue a lawsuit that seeks to strike down the law. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday she is calling an end to the coronavirus public health emergency, a move that will limit the release of state public health data but reflects the governor’s long-held belief that it’s time to move on from pandemic restrictions.

Reynolds said in a statement that the state cannot treat COVID-19 as a public health emergency indefinitely.

“After two years, it’s no longer feasible or necessary,” she said. “The flu and other infectious illnesses are part of our everyday lives, and coronavirus can be managed similarly.”

The governor’s decision means that as of Feb. 15, the Iowa Department of Public Health will report COVID-19 data similar to other respiratory viruses.

The state will provide weekly updates on its website showing positive coronavirus tests, cases by county and deaths since March 2020, as well as information about how many Iowans are fully vaccinated.

However, the state will discontinue its vaccine locator website, saying information will remain accessible online through other state and federal resources. Some information about hospitalizations and other information will be left to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC COVID Data Tracker.

Reynolds first declared a health disaster emergency on March 17, 2020.

A year ago, she lifted mask and social distancing mandates at a time when the White House COVID Response Team was telling states they should not ease restrictions because new variants of the coronavirus were spreading more easily.

Reynolds, a Republican, has since been a firm opponent of mask or vaccine mandates, saying Iowans would make the right choices. About one-third of Iowa’s population hasn’t received at least one dose of vaccine, a rate that leaves the state ranked 34th nationally. Since the pandemic began in the state, 8,657 people have died.

Health care officials had predicted the omicron variant — the dominant strain in the state — would likely subside in February after Iowa reached its peak virus spread in mid-January.

State data posted Wednesday had 794 people in hospitals, down from 929 a week ago.

Reynold’s decision likely will have little affect on whether state workers return to offices, a spokesman for Reynolds said. Each agency determines the need for their departments and how that is best met with work schedules and locations, and the proclamation does not affect that.

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