Reynolds echoes Trump: ‘We can’t let COVID-19 dominate our lives.’

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a news conference on Oct. 7. 2020 at Iowa PBS in Johnston. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS livestream)

Quoting President Donald Trump, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday that while Iowa’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are now at an all-time high, “we can’t let COVID-19 dominate our lives.”

Speaking at a press conference, Reynolds noted that COVID-19 hospitalizations have been climbing in Iowa for the past two weeks, particularly in the northwest section of the state.

Reynolds said that late Tuesday, the state had “reached an all-time high of 444 Iowans hospitalized” with the virus. “This is disappointing news and sadly it’s what can happen when we are experiencing community spread,” she added.

Reynolds prefaced her comments about the hospitalizations in Iowa by echoing the comments of President Trump shortly after he was released from the hospital where he was treated for COVID-19.

“Our entire country has been closely following the president’s and the first lady’s COVID diagnosis,” she said. “Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to them and their entire team at the White House as they keep our country running while managing their own health. It is, however, a good reminder for all of us that none of us lives in a bubble, not even the president of the United States. COVID-19 has the ability to reach all of us. Which is why we’ve taken this virus seriously since the first day that it came to Iowa.

“But the president is also right: We can’t let COVID-19 dominate our lives. And that’s exactly why we’ve taken the steps we have this last seven months to balance both the lives and livelihoods of Iowans.”

Reynolds is at odds with the White House in at least one respect: The White House Coronavirus Task Force has repeatedly called for a statewide face-mask mandate in Iowa, citing the growing number of infections,  hospitalizations and nursing home outbreaks in the state.

Reynolds has resisted, saying she trusts Iowans to do the right thing and act responsibly by wearing a mask and by social distancing when the situation calls for it.

She was asked Tuesday whether she still believes that’s the right strategy given the fact at least three state agencies within her own administration have documented cases of business owners and medical professionals ignoring her recommendations and putting other Iowans at risk.

“I do,” she said. “I have confidence in Iowans. We have processes in place. We are monitoring our businesses and our health care facilities to make sure they’re doing the infection-control practices to make sure that our businesses are adhering — if it’s a restaurant or a bar — to the regulations that we have in place. If not, they’ll get a warning, and if they don’t change what they’re doing then there’s a procedure in place to administer a fine and eventually they could be shut down for so many days.”

Last month, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported that the state agency that oversees Iowa restaurants had fielded almost 1,000 complaints about inadequate COVID-19 mitigation efforts, but issued only one warning. In addition, a Dubuque plastic surgeon whose license is in good standing with the state is alleged to have violated Reynolds’ ban on elective medical procedures, telling a colleague there would be “no consequences.” And at the University Park nursing home in Des Moines, the home’s medical director allegedly allowed staffers who tested positive for the virus to continue working with residents.

As for the importance of wearing masks, Reynolds said Wednesday that “we’re going to continue to talk about it, we’re going to talk about the importance as I have from the very beginning, and we’re going to continue to highlight it.”

When a reporter noted that ”people are dying every day so talking isn’t working, as a lot of people would observe, and we’ve had 250 people die this month alone,” Reynolds appeared to grow testy.

“And you know what?” Reynolds replied, cutting off the reporter. “Do you want to talk about the people who are dying because they delayed care? Do you want to talk about the suicides that have ticked up? Do you want to talk about the kids that aren’t in school? I, you know, we are doing a lot. And I am proud of what we are doing. And you know what? Any death is one too many, and it’s heart wrenching to see the numbers. One death is too many. But I have to balance a lot. And we are. And we’ve got a great team that’s working together and working with Iowans and with businesses across the state.”

Iowa reported at least 15 new coronavirus deaths, and 648 new infections Tuesday, according to the New York Times. Over the past week, there have been an average of 811 new infections each day, a decrease of 5% from the average two weeks ago.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, of the 444 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Iowa, 104 of the patients are in intensive care. There were 97 new hospital admissions in Iowa for COVID-19 during the previous 24 hours — by far the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic, and an almost 60% increase over the previous day’s tally of 61. The previous high was 70, set on April 21.

IDPH reports there are still more than 2,700 inpatient hospital beds available in Iowa, including 432 intensive care unit beds. There are 42 Iowans on ventilators, but 772 ventilators remain available, according to IDPH.

There are 54 Iowa nursing homes currently dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. There are 1,108 infections associated with those 54 outbreaks.