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“Please just don’t”: As Jones County reopens, leaders hope out-of-county residents stay away

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Downtown Anamosa

JONES COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) -- Jones County is one of Iowa's 77 counties where businesses can begin to re-open as of tomorrow, however, it is bordered by both Linn and Dubuque Counties where Coronavirus cases remain high.

The re-opening is part of Governor Kim Reynolds's plan to slowly re-open Iowa's economy in areas that have seen downward trends in the number of COVID-19 cases.

Jones County has only seen 22 cases of COVID-19 and no related deaths. However, just 30 minutes from Anamosa, Jones Counties' biggest city, is Linn which leads the state in COVID-19 deaths and has more than 650 cases, as of today.

The plan has raised some concerns with how to deter visitors from Iowa's 22 counties that remain under restrictions where COVID-19 cases remain high.

Already, Jones County Public Health Director Jenna Lovaas said there's been interest from outside communities.

"The Chamber of Commerce, they've been getting phone calls from Linn County residents saying, 'hey what restaurants are opening up?' And so yes it's definitely a concern," said Lovaas.

Anamosa's City Administator, Jacob Sheridan shares Lovaas concern with little guidance from the state on how to deter visitors.

"There's a little concern. We've had some people reach out, especially about our community center, and if people would be able to access that. Like I said that's gonna remain closed at least until the 15th [Of May] so we're not allowing that. I don't know what there will be in terms of people coming for other reasons," said Sheridan.

The closures have had a big economic impact and while Sheridan said he'd usually love to encourage more business comes to down. He wants those outside the county to wait until it's safe to do so.

Lovaas said businesses have also had a lot of questions when it comes to the re-opening. She's asking all storefronts reopening to continue to practice public health guidelines such as social distancing, hand washing, and staying home when sick.

"It's still out there just because businesses can reopen at a minimal capacity doesn't mean there's not still some risk," said Lovaas.

As far as Iowans coming from one of the 22 counties still under restrictions both Lovaas and Sheridan said, don't.

"I would say, please... actually, please just don't. Just don't right now, especially if you're coming from an area that's been hit really hard," said Lovaas.

The state has asked public health department to increase contact tracing, according to Lovaas. She said it's a good idea that all Iowans who are out in public to keep a list of places and people they've been in contact with to help that process and tack exposures.

Effective May 1, in 77 counties certain businesses can choose to reopen, complying with certain restrictions:

  • Restaurants, fitness centers, and retail stores previously closed can reopen at 50 percent of normal operating capacity.
  • Closed malls may reopen at 50 percent capacity, play areas and food court dining will remain closed.
  • Social and recreational sporting events will continue to be limited to 10 people.
  • Limits lifted on spiritual and religious gatherings. Businesses and churches approved for reopening must adhere to social distancing measures and guidelines from the IDPH.
  • All other closures will be extended for the entire state through May 15.
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