The first two cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed in Benton County on Tuesday afternoon in release from Virginia Gay Hospital.

According to the release, both cases were not tested through Virginia Gay Hospital or Clinics and both individuals are self-isolating at home. The cases were identified as two middle aged adults.

In her daily press conference on Thursday afternoon, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds notified the press that The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has identified 179 positive cases of COVID-19 in the state. A release from the governor on the same day also announced there has been a total of 2,975 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs. The first COVID-19 death in Iowa was confirmed on Tuesday.

“Our hearts are heavy with the first loss of an Iowan to COVID-19. The thoughts and prayers of our state are with the family during this difficult time,” said Gov. Reynolds. “I continue to urge all Iowans to protect their health and the health of others, especially older individuals and those with chronic health conditions who are most at risk. We all have a role to play in limiting the spread of this virus.”

Thursday’s press conference saw Governor Reynolds continue the Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamation issues early last week, extending the closures of businesses by one week to April 7. Additional retail stores-book stores, shoe stores, jewelry, cosmetic, beauty supply stores, florists, home furnishing stores-have been added to the order and went into effect at 10:00 p.m. on Thursday.

Effective on Friday, non-essential surgeries and dental procedures not deemed emergency are suspended. The governor encouraged the use of telehealth services to screen patients, adding that health insurance companies are being directed to reimburse providers for these service as if they were in-person visits.

The governor also reiterated that school closures will continue until April 13, stating they continue to assess the situation “daily” and are working with local and federal officials.

Virginia Gay Hospital noted these cases in Benton County are the first, but “may not be the last” and encourage all residents to continue social distancing to help prevent spread of the virus.

“Social distancing is a term used to describe certain action public health and individuals can take to stop or slow the spread of an infectious disease,” said Benton County Public Health Director Katie Cox. The government mandates some actions, like business or school closings; for example, Governor Reynolds issued a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency on March 16, 2020, which expires April 16, 2020. Individuals can also practice social distancing in their everyday lives. These actions include:

· Avoiding groups of people.

· Keeping a 6-foot distance between themselves and those around them; for instance, keeping this distance when in a line at the grocery store. A 6-foot distance is about the length of a twin-size bed.

· Stay home even if mildly ill.

· If you are ill at home, isolating yourself from others in your home who are well.