DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds says she views the 2020 election outcome as a validation of the state’s efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. But surging cases, deaths and hospitalizations are prompting her to urge Iowans to “double down” on their efforts to control the novel coronavirus.
During a news conference Thursday, her first since Oct. 7 dealing with coronavirus, Reynolds expressed concern Iowans were dealing with COVID-19 “fatigue” in letting their guards down — a trend contributing to a record 4,706 new cases and 20 deaths reported Thursday morning, which drove the toll to 1,801 COVID-19 fatalities in Iowa since March.
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“We all know that this trend cannot continue,” said Reynolds, but she noted that other states in the Midwest are experiencing similar surges as outdoor temperatures drop and more activities move indoors. Because of that, she said, Iowans must be vigilant in observing mitigation precautions such as wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, avoiding crowds and isolating if they are feeling sick.
“For the next three weeks at least, I am asking Iowans to make every effort to help us stop the spread of COVID-19,” the Republican governor said. “It is critical right now that we work together to protect those who are most vulnerable to serious illness and continue to do everything we can to preserve our health care resources.”
Reynolds said that next week she will launch a second public relations campaign involving newspapers, radio and TV to encourage Iowans to “double-down” on pandemic precautions to ensure that businesses and schools stay open and hospitals don’t get overrun with COVID-19 patients. Hospitalizations because of the virus having doubled in the past month, hitting a record 839 on Thursday.
“I need every Iowan doing their part to be part of the solution, so I’m going to do my part to ensure that Iowa gets the message,” said Reynolds, who launched a “mask up” public awareness campaign in July.
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“People are just experiencing pandemic fatigue. They are wearing down and wearing out and they want to get their lives back to normal,” she said, “and so I am going to double down and I am asking them to double down.”
The governor had ordered businesses and schools to close, encouraged people to work from home and limit interactions in the early stages of the pandemic, but she said those measures were not intended to be long-term, government-mandated solutions for residents taking safe and responsible precautions within their constitutionally protected freedoms.
“Government solutions alone can’t stop this virus. It’s up to every single one of us,” she said.
Reynolds said next week’s public service campaign is intended to “remind Iowans that while you’re tired of it, you want it to just be over, it’s not. It’s not over yet.”
She said she was particularly concerned about overworking front-line health care workers as hospital beds start to fill up with COVID-19 patients.
“The entire (health care) system, the entire state is seeing increases in COVID cases,” said Dr. Dave Williams, chief clinical officer of UnityPoint Health, who Reynolds invited to address the news conference. “We have to get this curve moving in the right direction.
“These next three weeks are critical. I need you to listen. We need to listen. It’s time to get this pandemic under control.”
Dr. Hijinio Carreon, chief medical officer of MercyOne Des Moines, echoed Williams’ concern, telling reporters the surge in positive cases now totaling 140,832 in Iowa is not a new development. But he said, “It is more severe and more critical than it was at the onset.”
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While health care providers are better equipped to deal with the pandemic, he said, “we are at a critical point in our state’s fight against COVID-19. It’s going to take every Iowan doing their part to get this virus under control.”
During her news briefing, Reynolds deflected criticism over large-scale outdoor campaign events that Republicans held in the days leading up to Tuesday’s election, saying participants were offered but not required to wear masks and she would remove hers to take pictures or to deliver brief remarks at mostly open-air venues.
The GOP governor said she took the strong Republican showing in Iowa, where President Donald Trump captured all but six of Iowa’s 99 counties and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst garnered support in 91 counties en route to victory, along with other GOP wins down the Iowa ballot, as a “a validation of our balanced response to COVID-19, one that is mindful of both public health and economic health.”
“I’ve tried to lead by example. I think that Iowans said in this election they want to get through it, they want to figure out a way to move on. They’ve agreed with how we’ve handled COVID-19. I believe that’s what the election said.
“We tried to do it in a safe and responsible manner,” she added. “I think the election reflects that Iowans somewhat agree with how we have handled not only COVID-19 but conservative fiscally responsible decisions that have been made,” she added. “We want to do it in a safe and responsible way. and we’re going to continue to do everything we can to make that happen.”
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