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Health experts weighing option of local shelter-in-place order

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) - Officials with Johnson County Emergency Management and Johnson County Public Health say they've discussed a potential shelter-in-place order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Johnson County is leading Iowa with 43 confirmed cases of the deadly virus.

Multiple states across the county have been instituting shelter-in-place or "stay at home" orders, asking people to stay home unless performing an essential task like getting groceries or gas.

In these cases, essential workers like hospital employees or those in food production have been allowed to carry on as normal. While local governments can supersede state and federal orders in these cases, Johnson County officials say they haven't worked out specifics yet.

"If that comes out and if we get to that threshold, it will be communicated. It will not be a surprise," Dave Wilson said, the county's Emergency Management director.

Wilson said they would base their decision on things like the county's demographics, the rate of hospitalizations and acceleration of spread.

Iowa City declared a civil emergency last week, which in part allows police officers to enforce Governor Reynolds' rules like the closing of salons and banning of gatherings larger than 10 people with a fine.

As of Wednesday afternoon, ICPD said it had not been briefed on how it might be operate during a shelter-in-place order; the Johnson County Sheriff's Office said the same.

Local hospitals have been trying to safeguard precious personal protective equipment during the outbreak, and worry further restrictions would impact their supply of masks and face shields.

"The number one challenge that we face right now that we're concerned about is supply chain," Sean Williams said, president of Mercy Iowa City.

Johnson County Public Health Director Dave Koch said Wednesday whatever action they take would most likely happen alongside Linn County, given their close proximity.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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