DAVENPORT — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds remains bullish on the state’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, despite concerns raised by federal health officials and some business owners over her recent decision to lift COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
“Iowa is coming back, and we’re coming back strong,” Reynolds said Friday. “Part of that, I think, is because we were balanced in our approach in how we handled mitigation of COVID-19. We kept over 80 percent of our economy up and going.”
As a result, Iowa has not had to make “massive budget cuts like other states are seeing,” the governor said.
Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg stopped at Hotel Blackhawk to talk about downtown Davenport’s transformation over the Past 20 years and its “placemaking” initiatives to aid the state’s recovery from COVID-19.
Reynolds also touted Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate falling to 3.1 percent in December, third-lowest in the country. Recent Iowa jobless claims, though, were up from a week ago.
“We have a phenomenal opportunity because if you look at how they’ve been shut down on the East and West coasts — North and South, really — we’re open, and we’ve got a great quality of life, and cost of doing business is second to none in the country,” Reynolds said.
The governor has cited steady declines in hospitalizations, cases and deaths in the state since a surge in November and December for lifting a partial public face mask requirement, limits on public gatherings and restrictions on businesses.
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Democrats have blasted Reynolds for not consulting her public health department before lifting the state’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies, arguing the decision was based on politics and catering to business interests.
Reynolds used her elimination of COVID-19 restrictions in a fundraising pitch, tweeting: “While radicals on the Left want to shut Iowa down, I am fighting to keep Iowa open!”
The governor on Friday brushed aside a question about statehouse Republicans advancing a bill that would abolish tenure at the state’s three public universities. Another would require those schools to poll their faculty on their political affiliation.
Opponents of the bill, including Iowa pork and poultry producers, cattlemen and soybean growers, argue it will incite an exodus of top faculty, harm recruitment and chill research endeavors supporting Iowa’s agriculture and health care industries, making it more difficult to attract people and businesses to Iowa.
“It’s a long ways from working through the process,” Reynolds said. “We’ll see what happens with that bill as it moves forward.”
Davenport Mayor Mike Matson told Reynolds that Iowa needs “more vaccines.”
Reynolds said the state is expected to receive the new single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine the first of March.
“That will be a game-changer for the state,” she said. “We are rockin’ and rollin’. We are getting into our rhythm.”
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