Reynolds: Iowa is ‘leading’ the nation in its response to COVID-19

By: - May 7, 2020 2:41 pm

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds updates the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, May 7, 2020, in Johnston, Iowa. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/Pool, AP)

Fresh from Wednesday’s White House meeting with President Trump, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Iowa is “leading by example” by reopening businesses around the state even as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.

Without providing her usual daily update on infections and deaths — Reynolds said the way that data is reported is now being reworked to offer Iowans more detail — the governor reiterated her position that data and metrics on the spread of the virus have driven her decision to reopen additional businesses around the state on Friday.

Asked to identify the specific data points she has relied on in deciding to reopen those businesses, Reynolds said she has been looking at trends in infections, hospitalizations and other factors. “We’re looking at a variety of things,” she said.

The governor said mitigation is now largely a matter of personal responsibility and suggested her decision to open businesses throughout the state was a matter of “fairness,” though she didn’t elaborate.

“Iowans will make the decision whether they want to go to the (stores) or not but we’ve done it on a very limited basis,” she said. “And, you know, just like people are going to the grocery store, this is — you know, it was a fairness issue in really opening up retail statewide.”

Because the Iowa Department of Public Health has redefined the 24-hour period used to provide daily updates on the virus spread, there were no new numbers reported by Reynolds on Thursday. On Wednesday, IDPH reported 12 additional COVID-19 deaths and 293 newly confirmed cases.

Starting Friday, malls and retail stores in even the hardest-hit areas of the state will be allowed to reopen, although they won’t be able to operate at more than 50% maximum occupancy. Dentists can also reopen, as can public and private campgrounds, drive-in movie theaters, tanning facilities and medical spas — again, with restrictions intended to ensure social distancing.

Reynolds said Iowa has been aggressive about testing for the virus and has been “working in partnership with our manufacturing facilities … so of course our positive cases are going to increase, and of course we’re going to continue to see that.”

Asked by a reporter about data that suggests Iowa lags behind other states in testing but is one of the states where the virus is spreading the fastest, Reynolds said, “This is a finely oiled machine … Iowans can be proud of what we’re doing. You should be proud of what we’re doing. We are leading. We are leading by example and we’re going to continue to lead. We’ve ramped up our testing. We’ve increased it by 800% since March. We are in a pandemic. We have a rapidly changing environment and we are reacting and being proactive at the same time.”

Reynolds said her actions have enabled Iowa farmers and meat-processing plants to continue feeding the world and will “get this economy up and going so Iowans can get back to work.”

She said Iowa’s “business owners will decide whether the time is right to reopen their doors, just as Iowans choose whether or not they will resume some of their normal activities … My hope is that, as we continue to watch the trends and monitor the virus, that we can continue to open things back up as we move forward.”

With regard to Woodbury County, which is seeing an increase in deaths at the same time businesses are planning to reopen Friday, Reynolds said, “It’s just retail businesses. And, again, (they can operate) at 50% of capacity. They need to continue practicing social distancing, they also need to continue proper hygiene and do additional sanitations to be able to open.”

Asked whether Iowans should follow her lead in deciding not to self-quarantine after traveling to the White House and back on Wednesday, Reynolds said, “Iowans needs to make those individual choices themselves. They need to apply personal responsibility.” She noted that she didn’t use a commercial airline to fly to and from Washington, D.C., was tested at the White House, and had her temperature taken “just about every time I turned a corner.”

Iowa’s state medical director, Dr. Caitlin Pedati, accepted an invitation from President Trump on Wednesday to serve on the White House’s coronavirus task force while continuing in her state position, the governor’s office reported.



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Clark Kauffman
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.