Reynolds: We can’t prioritize Iowans’ lives over their livelihoods

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a news conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston on May 26, 2020. (Photo by Zach Boyden-Holmes/Pool, The Des Moines Register)

Declaring that Iowa can’t “prioritize” lives over jobs, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday that casinos, racetracks and outdoor concert venues will be allowed to reopen on June 1 after being shuttered for weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For our state, recovery means striking a balance between getting life and business back to normal while continuing to manage the virus activity,” Reynolds said at Tuesday’s daily news conference. “Our recovery is contingent on our ability to protect both the lives and the livelihoods of Iowans. We can’t prioritize one over the other. We must prioritize both to move forward.”

Reynolds said that effective June 1, speedways and racetracks will be allowed to open events to spectators, and grandstands and amphitheaters will be allowed to stage performances.

Casinos will also be allowed to reopen, along with amusement parks, pool halls, bowling alleys and arcades.

All of the newly reopened venues will have to limit their business to 50% of their maximum capacity while adhering to social distancing and personal hygiene guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Social, community, recreational, leisure, and sports gatherings of more than 10 people will be permitted, subject to those same restrictions on social distancing and operating capacity.

Sporting competitions and practices will also be allowed for youth and adult baseball, softball, golf, biking, running, swimming and tennis.

“In communities across the state, there are signs that life is starting to get back to normal,” Reynolds said. “The most welcome one of all is the ‘We’re Open’ sign hanging in the windows of local businesses.”

Reynolds also announced that she is ending, effective Thursday, the moratorium on debt collection, evictions and foreclosures tied to renters’ and homeowners’ loss of income during the pandemic.

She said that while she knows some Iowans may experience difficulty paying rent or mortgages in the months ahead, she intends to allocate money to a new state-run program intended to discourage evictions and foreclosures.

Reynolds didn’t say how much money will be allocated for the program or what the criteria will be for eligibility, but said the program should be up and running by Friday.

Reynolds was asked whether there are any new, additional COVID-19 outbreaks confirmed in workplaces throughout Iowa. She referred the question to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s deputy director, Sarah Reisetter, who said there had been two additional outbreaks at Perdue Farms — one in the company’s Sioux City plant, with 20 positive cases, and one in Sioux Center, with 69 cases.

Asked whether the state would consider routinely releasing information on outbreaks on its COVID-19 web site rather than wait for the media to ask for it, Reynolds said, “I trust the media to do their job and continue to ask the questions. We’re being as transparent as we can in providing Iowans with about as much information as we can … The media will do their part, and we’ll do ours.”

Reynolds’ news conference included a six-minute scripted message from Russ Vannorsdel, an executive with the movie-theater chain Fridley Theaters, detailing what Reynolds called the chain’s “plan to get Iowans back to the movies.”

Vannorsdel thanked Reynolds for her leadership and promoted his company’s efforts to resume business safely so that Iowans can be “transported into the world of movie-going.”

Reynolds said she was “so incredibly impressed” with the company’s efforts and said she’s looking forward to seeing more Iowa theaters reopen.

On Tuesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health was reporting the following numbers for new COVID-19 cases and related deaths:

May 23:  257 cases, 4 deaths

May 24: 341 cases, 14 deaths

May 25: 162 cases, 3 deaths

May 26 as of 2 p.m.:  65 cases, 1 death.

 

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.