116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Gov. Kim Reynolds trusts Iowans to do the right thing. But gather some of those Iowans together, call them a school board and they clearly cannot be trusted.
The governor will not abide the use of state coercion to make any Iowans follow public health directives as the delta variant of COVID-19 spreads across Iowa. But if a school district seeing a spike in local cases dare require masks, they can be sure the state will hand out swift punishment.
After all, in May Reynolds signed a law in the middle of the night making school mask mandates illegal. Surprised and confused parents awoke to the new law as they sent their kids to school. It was a big political show of force to please the thick slice of COVID-skeptic, anti-maskers in her political base. She also turned down $95 million in federal bucks for school virus testing.
Personal irresponsibility is fundamental right in Iowa. Reynolds has made that clear. So much so that the University of Iowa will open this fall as the only Big Ten member not requiring students to be vaccinated. UI is home to disease experts the governor ignores.
Cases of the more contagious delta variant are piling up In Iowa. Thankfully, we’re not in the same league with Florida, Missouri or Arkansas. But with just more than half of Iowans are vaccinated, and with the more contagious strain spreading, conditions are favorable for climbing case counts.
Anxiety also is rising as we send our kids back to schools where the governor has declared virus freedom by edict. That’s especially true for parents of kids under 12 who are not yet eligible for vaccinations.
A troubling number of cases among children are being recorded in regions where the delta variant is running wild. From the end of July to Aug. 6, the CDC reported an average of 216 children hospitalized daily. And despite U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks recent false claims to the contrary, children can transmit the virus, potentially to vulnerable adults at home.
Of the more than 4,800 new cases recorded in Iowa since Aug. 4, 788 are children ages 17 and under. And it’s still summer.
What can be done?
“Universal masking in schools can save lives. Voluntary masking in schools will likely be much less effective and could lead to school closures and community transmission,” wrote three Duke University medical researchers this week in the New York Times. The team studied the pandemic’s effect on 864,000 North Carolina students for a year.
So the best option is no longer an option for Iowa school districts. And the governor shows no sign of changing course. She might lose her Red State Trailblazer decoder ring.
There likely will be no Asa Hutchinson moment here. Hutchinson, the governor of Arkansas, recently expressed regret for signing a bill banning school mask mandates as his state’s hospitals filled with delta variant cases.
Reynolds is embracing the approach of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is presiding over America’s worst COVID outbreak. But DeSantis’ approval rating is receding as cases surge. Some school districts are calling his bluff.
Iowa doesn’t need a statewide mask mandate, closures or lockdowns. School districts should simply have the authority to deal with local conditions. Why wait for a tragedy to abandon this reckless legislation?
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