Twelve hours before President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he and first lady Melania Trump have COVID-19, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne said the pandemic has revealed weaknesses in the nation’s health care system.
“There is nothing that has exposed the American health care system and its inadequacies to the American people like COVID-19,” Axne said in an interview on campaign issues.
Axne, a Democrat, is running for re-election in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District against the man she unseated two years ago, former Congressman David Young, a Republican.
President Trump and his administration have failed to properly support the agencies reacting to the spread of COVID-19, Axne said.
“We have, unfortunately, seen our health care providers struggling to get the support they need to keep people healthy,” Axne said. “They are doing everything they possibly can, but we have issues within our systems.”
Axne accused the Trump administration of failing to properly fund key agencies.
“Certainly having this administration not provide enough resources to the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the National Institutes of Health, that has left us at a disadvantage. Not producing our own PPE (personal protective equipment) in this country has us at a disadvantage,” she said.
Axne is on a federal pandemic preparedness task force that hopes the nation will be better prepared for a future outbreak than it was for COVID-19. The current pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 207,000 U.S. residents, including more than 1,300 Iowans.
Iowa a national hotspot for COVID-19
Iowa ranks sixth in the nation per capita in the number of new COVID-19 cases daily, according to the New York Times.
In addition to questions over how well the nation is equipped to respond to pandemics, the task force is looking at how certain populations have been harmed more than others.
“We are seeing communities Black and brown most directly (affected) by this issue” because they often face multiple health issues, Axne said. “That’s because our Black and brown communities have notoriously been left behind when it comes to (healthful), clean foods in their area, for health care that they can afford, and for the opportunity to have it in their own back yard.”
Axne said the emphasis has been on serving the rich.
“We’ve allowed parts of our American society, our American citizens, to not have as much access as those who come from a ZIP code that is wealthier,” she said. “So we’ve got to make sure that we’re addressing that.
“These systemic issues have been there all along,” Axne said. “COVID just exposed them.”
Iowa’s response to COVID has been lacking and has left senior citizens particularly in danger, Axne said. “I have pushed to have Test Iowa mobile hotspots out at our congregate living centers across our state. Our governor will not move forward on that even though I’ve tried to put this in front of her multiple times.
“We’re now seeing that she’s saying there isn’t enough funding to cover the testing needed in these communities, which is absolutely unacceptable. we’re now seeing that she’s saying there isn’t enough funding to cover the testing needed in these communities, which is absolutely unacceptable.”
Pat Garrett, an aide to Gov. Kim Reynolds, defended the governor’s record. “Iowa has a robust testing strategy that leverages both state and federal resources. Over all time, more than 804,000 Iowans have been tested, a rate of 1:4 per capita,” Garrett said.
“Nearly 280,000 Iowans have been tested through Test Iowa alone,” Garrett said. “The State Hygienic Lab has increased its capacity throughout the pandemic to meet the testing needs in Iowa, and in the coming weeks will have the capacity to process more than 10,000 tests per day.
“With additional point-of-care testing from our federal partners for surveillance testing of (long term care) facilities and in rural communities, we will be able to do even more,” Garrett added.
Axne: Vulnerable populations need more help
Axne said in case of future pandemics, the state needs to make sure that “the most vulnerable populations, like our elderly folks, have a better opportunity to get what they need.”
Axne added that she would support state and federal mask mandates to help fight the pandemic. “I’m going to support science and medical experts,” she said.
“People are very concerned about getting our economy back up and running, and so am I. But this starts by protecting people’s health,” Axne added.
Reynolds has repeatedly defended her approach to the pandemic, which has included deploying Test Iowa stations at various changing locations. She has encouraged mask-wearing, but has declined to mandate it.
Young said he opposes a federal mask mandate. “I like what they president has done in terms of giving state governors the authority to make the decisions,” Young said in a separate interview. “I do think people should wear masks. I think people should practice social distancing.
“I am not sure how you would enforce a federal mask mandate,” Young said. “I am not sure it’s even legal.”