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Gov. Reynolds defends reopening most of Iowa as state sees highest number of deaths in single day

Gov. Kim Reynolds' daily press conference Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at 11 a.m. on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the state.

IOWA, USA — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' daily press conference Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at 11 a.m. on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the state.

Reynolds announced 467 new positive cases for a total of 6,843 cases confirmed in Iowa. The governor also confirmed 12 deaths, the highest single-day death rate. Iowa is reporting 148 deaths due to the coronavirus.

There have been 34,494 negative tests.

Of the new positive cases, 93% were contained within the 22 counties with restrictions still in place, one reason, Reynolds said, she did not roll back restrictions statewide. 

The governor defended her decision to begin a gradual reopening of the state after reports were released Tuesday that University of Iowa experts advised Reynolds last week not to relax social distancing rules. The reports warned of a “catastrophic loss of life” even with them and see a second wave of infections.

Reynolds said it is not sustainable to keep the state locked down. 

RELATED: Iowa businesses in select counties allowed to reopen at reduced capacity

"We were able to flatten the curve and mitigate the impact on our healthcare resources and not overwhelm health care facilities," Reynolds said. "I think it makes sense to start to loosen up in places that have seen little to no virus activity."

The governor emphasized that for Iowans who are more vulnerable to catching the coronavirus, "nothing has changed," and those who have underlying conditions or are 65-years or older should continue to stay home.

Reynolds said Suresh Gunasekaran, chief executive officer of University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, and Dr. Brooks Jackson, University of Iowa Vice President for Medical Affairs made the case to her to bring back elective procedures.

"I didn't just rip the band aid off or flip the light switch," she said. "We are doing it it at a reasonable phase in approach. I believe in Iowans. I know they will do the responsible thing."

When asked if she would attend in-person church services or go to the farmer's market, Reynolds said, "Isn't it a wonderful thing, isn't this great! Iowans are going to decide, churches are going to decide. It's not a mandate, it's an option," before noting she would likely continue attending church services online. 

A research paper released to the public Tuesday from the professors from the UI College of Public Health found “considerable uncertainty” in how many deaths Iowa could get. 

On the research paper, Deputy Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health Sarah Reisetter said, "a model is a model. It's a forecast. It's an estimate of what me might see. Iowans that are most vulnerable need to stay home."

The governor said by May 15 there will be more information for counties with restrictions.

RELATED: Iowa researchers warned governor not to relax virus limits