Iowa governor in ‘modified quarantine’ after Pence meetings


Associated Press

IOWA CITY — Iowa’s governor and its medical director were in partial quarantine Monday after potential exposure to the coronavirus, even as the state made plans to lift more restrictions that were intended to slow the spread of the disease.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said she would follow a modified quarantine plan because she may have been exposed last week while visiting the White House or meeting with Vice President Mike Pence two days later in Iowa.

At least two staff members at the White House have tested positive, including a valet to President Donald Trump and Pence’s spokeswoman.

The governor said she would have most of her aides work from home, have minimal interactions with others, wear a mask at times and practice social distancing.

Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the state epidemiologist who traveled with Reynolds to the White House, said in a statement Monday she is in quarantine and working from home. She said she would follow “public health guidance” for any in-person meetings.

Reynolds and Pedati met with Pence and Trump at the White House last Wednesday to discuss Iowa’s response to the pandemic. Reynolds also accompanied Pence during his visit to Iowa on Friday, greeting him at the airport and joining him at meetings with religious leaders and food executives. Although Pence had learned that his spokeswoman was infected, he didn’t wear a mask during his visit. Neither did the governor or Iowa’s two U.S. senators, who also met with Pence.

An aide to Sen. Chuck Grassley said after consulting with Pence’s office and medical team, the 86-year-old senator opted not to self-isolate because he has tested negative for the virus and hasn’t come into contact with White House staff who have contracted the illness. Aides to Sen. Joni Ernst didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about her plans.

During both meetings, Pence called Iowa a “success story” despite having some of the nation’s largest outbreaks, in communities around meatpacking plants.

The state reported Monday that its official death toll rose by six, to 271, and that roughly 400 more citizens had tested positive.

At a news conference Monday, Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson blasted “corporate greed and governmental ignorance” for allowing a huge outbreak at a Tyson Foods pork processing facility in Waterloo that has since spread into nursing homes.

Thompson said 29 county residents have now died unnecessarily and that he was praying the state’s push to reopen the economy does not make the situation worse.

Reynolds, a Republican, said that she had a facial covering with her but didn’t wear it during Pence’s visit because they practiced social distancing “the entire time.” She said she was a meeting with Pence’s spokeswoman at the White House and would take extra precautions “out of an abundance of caution.”

The governor said she tested negative for the coronavirus after getting a rapid test Monday morning and that she felt healthy. She said that she would be tested every day before entering the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, where she’s been working, and that she would take her temperature throughout the day.

Reynolds announced her modified quarantine at a news conference in which she excluded pool reporters as a safety precaution. She didn’t wear a mask but indicated she would in private meetings.

The governor said that she would make an announcement Tuesday “about some of the restrictions that will be eased” this week.

Malls, retail stores, gyms, church services, campgrounds and farmers markets have been allowed to reopen or resume under new rules in recent days.

But restaurants remain shut in 22 counties under an order that expires Friday. Statewide, bars that do not serve food, salons, barbershops, movie theaters, casinos, museums, swimming pools and other businesses remain under closure orders.

The governor said people should have the confidence to return to work because the state has increased testing, particularly around nursing homes and manufacturing facilities. She said the state processed an average of 3,100 tests per day last week, and hoped to soon meet her target of 5,000.