CORONAVIRUS

Iowa auditor seeks Gov. Kim Reynolds' coronavirus assessment tool because 'stakes are high'

State Auditor Rob Sand explains results of an audit of Iowa Medicaid Home Health Services during a Jan. 9 news conferenc
State Auditor Rob Sand explains results of an audit of Iowa Medicaid Home Health Services during a Jan. 9 news conference at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines. Sand, a Democrat, has written Gov. Kim Reynolds, asking her to be more transparent about the assessment tool she is using to determine Iowa does not need a shelter-at-home order. (Associated Press)

Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand is pressing Gov. Kim Reynolds for information about the 12-point pandemic assessment tool she’s using to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa because the “questions are super important and the stakes are high.”

The first-term Democratic auditor has written letters to the Republican governor asking her to be more transparent about whether her assessment tool, which Reynolds has maintained does not justify a statewide shelter-in-place order, “should guide our lives and livelihoods.”

Like other Iowans, Sand said Tuesday, he wants to better understand the basis of Reynolds’ use of the assessment tool, which he said is being used nowhere else.

Sand’s office audits both the Department of Public Health and the governor’s office every year, but he said his questions now are an informal request.

Asked and answered, was the response from the governor’s spokesman, Pat Garrett.

“Gov. Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health have answered this question multiple times at several of the governor’s daily press conferences,” he said in an emailed reply to media inquiries. “All decisions are guided by medical experts and data, including Dr. (Caitlin) Pedati and her epidemiology team, as well as CDC guidelines” that can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community-mitigation-strategy.pdf.

In a letter sent Saturday with a Monday deadline for answers, Sand asked 12 questions seeking details about how the assessment tool was developed, including the names and titles of people involved “in instigating, creating, supervising, critiquing, evaluating or otherwise guiding in any way the creation and refinement of the tool.”

He also asked whether other assessments were evaluated and why this tool was selected instead of another.

Sand asked whether the tool can determine the impact of specific interventions on reducing transmission in a community.

“For example, does it reflect the degree to which a stay-at-home order for those 65 and older would impact the spread of COVID-19?” he wrote.

Reynolds deserves “some degree of leeway” while facing a difficult circumstance, Sand said, but there’s no better time to ask questions.

“This is the only time to be asking (because) we’re going to hit a point where the pandemic is over and the damage is done,” Sand said.

“If this is a tool that should be used to guide life-and-death decisions, these questions would have been easily answered in a very short amount of time because I would have thought through them before putting the tool together,” he said.

Sand, formerly an assistant attorney general who prosecuted white-collar crime, was elected in 2018 when he defeated incumbent Republican Mary Mosiman. Republicans quickly targeted Sand as someone who was building his resume for a run for governor or Congress.

Sand laughed off the suggestion he made his letter to Reynolds public to gain publicity.

“If I wanted to get some attention, I could much more easily do that by name-calling or shouting about precisely what the governor should be doing,” he said. “Getting attention is easy. Doing oversight in a way that is meaningful, yet fair, is hard.”

The Republican Party of Iowa declined to comment on Sand’s letter.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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