DES MOINES, Iowa -- The State of Iowa is changing it's position on COVID-19.
"Effective February 16th, so midnight on the 15th, the state's public health emergency declaration will expire," says Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds enacted the emergency declaration for the first time on March 17th, 2020.
"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," Reynolds says.
Garcia says the Department of Public Health and other state agencies will manage COVID-19 as part of normal daily business, and reallocate resources fully dedicated to the pandemic response.
"We're not ratcheting back, necessarily, on things we're doing--we're shifting focus and picking back up the work that we have shelved at the expense of some very important issues for Iowans," she says.
Garcia says some significant mental health issues--including an uptick in suicides--have come out of the pandemic and need to be addressed.
Governor Reynolds' office and Public Health say the state needs to start handling COVID-19 more in the same way it deals with other endemic, or annually re-occurring, viruses like the flu.
"Ultimately, that will be the case. We're not quite there yet, because that means steady and we're on the downside of a peak (in new COVID cases and hospitalizations). Every indicator tells is that we peaked a couple of weeks ago--maybe 10 days ago. But we'll need to hold steady to meet that definition," Garcia says.
Garcia also says the end of the the public health emergency means the state will also take down coronavirus.iowa.gov and vaccinate.iowa.gov on February 16th. She says that updated data will be shifted to the Iowa Department of Public Health's website.