Reynolds on reopening: ‘This isn’t political’

By: - May 4, 2020 12:48 pm

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a news conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa, on May 4, 2020. (Photo by Olivia Sun/Pool, The Des Moines Register)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday pushed back on suggestions that her partial reopening of the state is politically motivated, adding that she is looking every day for data that suggest she can reopen more of the state. 

Her comments came as the Iowa Department of Human Services confirmed that six residents of the state’s Woodward facility for people with severe disabilities have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been isolated in separate housing at the facility west of Des Moines. DHS also reported that nine of its staff members from five of the six DHS residential facilities have tested positive for the virus. 

DHS director Kelly Garcia noted that due to the department’s protocol for illness, most of the workers who tested positive had not been at work for days and had not come into contact with residents recently.

Reynolds spoke after a weekend when laboratories caught up with added testing in the state, which brought more than 700 positive results on both Friday and Saturday and more than 500 on both Sunday and Monday.

On Monday, Reynolds reported another 534 confirmed cases for a total of 9,703. Four more deaths were reported, bringing that total to 188.

The reopening of the country’s businesses and facilities after weeks of COVID-related closures has split the parties on the national stage. GOP lawmakers and President Trump have pushed for rapid reopening to restore the economy as soon as possible, while Democrats at the Iowa Statehouse and in Congress have pushed for a slower approach to avoid a second spike of the virus that might shut things down again. 

Medical professionals, including a University of Iowa epidemiologist, have also cautioned against reopening too quickly. 

In response to a reporter’s question about how to balance the political, economic, social and other pressures, Reynolds said the debate isn’t about politics. 

“This isn’t political,” Reynolds said at a news conference Monday. “That’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to stand here every day and talk to Iowans about making decisions based on data and metrics” and input from professionals in the state and federal agencies involved, she added.

“These are some of the hardest decisions that I have had to make as governor,” Reynolds said. “We had a growing economy. Our cash reserves are full. Our fiscal health was strong. Iowans were doing well. The unemployment rate was low. And to have this pandemic hit this state and our country and to have it impact Iowans and businesses and families in the manner that it has is heart-wrenching.

“You can’t look at it from one isolated perspective. You have to look at the health and the wellbeing and the mental wellbeing and the livelihood of Iowans,” Reynolds said. 

She added that the state is seeing more substance abuse, families short on food and high employment. 

“Iowans are meant to work, and we need to open back up, but we have to do it in a safe and responsible manner. I’m not … this isn’t political. It shouldn’t be for anybody and I don’t believe it is. It’s about trying to do the right thing in an unprecedented time.”

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