Reynolds prepares to ease lockdown and asks, ‘Isn’t this great?’

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to the press during the daily COVID-19 news conference on April 29, 2020, at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston. (Photo by Kelsey Kremer/Pool, The Register)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds reported a record number of COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday while reasserting her belief that the state is ready for her to begin rolling back mitigation efforts.

At her daily press conference, Reynolds reported that 12 additional Iowans had died in the previous 24 hours due to the virus — a one-day high since first the death was reported in early March. Asked about that number in light of her plans to reopen many Iowa businesses on May 1, Reynolds said, “That’s a snapshot in time.”

With regard to a new University of Iowa report that suggests more infections might be prevented if statewide mitigation efforts remain in place for two more weeks, Reynolds said she appreciates the work that went into that report but “it’s not sustainable for us to continue to lock the state down.”

She said that because of her efforts over the past six weeks and the way Iowans have responded, “we were able to flatten the curve and we were able to mitigate the impact on our health care resources.”

Reynolds said that because the state can track the spread of the virus in real time and on a case-by-case, “it makes sense to start to loosen up in areas that have seen little to no virus activity, and to do it in a responsible manner … I didn’t just rip the Band-Aid off or flip the light switch. We’re doing it in a reasonable, phased-in approach.”

She said she will continue to re-evaluate the situation on a day-to-day basis. She characterized some of the state-ordered mitigation efforts as punishment, as opposed to protection, adding that her decision to lift certain restrictions on retailers and restaurants in 77 counties is “granular” and tightly focused. “I shouldn’t punish half of the state when we’ve got a significant spike in eight areas,” she said.

Asked which parts of the University of Iowa report she personally disagreed with, Reynolds handed the podium to Sarah Reisetter, the deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. “A model is a model,” Reisetter said. “It’s a forecast. It’s an estimate of what we might see.”

Reynolds was also asked whether she has plans this weekend to attend a church service or go to a farmers market — two types of gatherings that will be allowed under the newly relaxed rules. She said: “You know, I don’t know. Isn’t it a wonderful thing? Isn’t this great? Iowans are gonna decide. Churches are gonna decide. It’s not a mandate. It’s an option. So we have some that are going to continue to stay closed and that’s wonderful because they’ve provided opportunities to their members for online services … I’ll probably continue to still (attend) online. In fact, I think my church is continuing to stay online. That’s a decision that they made. That has worked out really well for us and I am so, so appreciate of that. So that’s probably what we’ll continue to do.”

As part of her daily update on the spread of the virus, Reynolds reported 467 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 6,843 cases.

Of the 467 new cases, 93% were from the 22 Iowa counties where comprehensive restrictions will remain in place until May 15.

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.