Guest Columnist

Judge and Hubbell: Iowa's coronavirus response is not acceptable

Gowns and face shields hang on the wall between isolation wards for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases at Cottage Gr
Gowns and face shields hang on the wall between isolation wards for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases at Cottage Grove Place in Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 29, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

We all want Iowa to grow, but to economically prosper we need Iowa to be healthy and this means we must get control of the coronavirus. The White House coronavirus task force released a report last week that condemned Iowa leaders by stating that “Community transmission has remained high across the state (Iowa) for the past month, with many preventable deaths.” Since COVID — 19 invaded our state, Iowa has experienced more than 100,000 COVID cases and nearly 1,500 deaths and today, “Iowa has the sixth-highest coronavirus transmission rate per capita in the nation,” the White House report states.

This is unacceptable.

Iowa’s governor and Republican-controlled Legislature are responsible for these terrible results. They have failed in so many ways: lack of strong leadership, weak policy initiatives, and poor execution of distributing federal CARES funding.

It is not acceptable for nursing homes, prisons and schools’ front line workers to wear the same mask for over 30 days.

It is not acceptable that we have not tested well over a majority of Iowans by this time.

It is not acceptable that it often takes three to five days to receive the results of COVID-19 tests.

It is not acceptable that Iowa is routinely in the top five states for new COVID-19 cases per capita.

It is not acceptable for large schools like Lincoln High School in Des Moines, with 1,943 students, not to be allowed to design a different “return to learning” strategy than a smaller school like Winterset High School, with 481 students — one policy does not fit all.

It is not acceptable for rural hospitals to have inadequate health care service resources for COVID-19 victims.

It is not acceptable for the governor and Republican Legislature to set standards for masks, social distancing and closure of businesses preventing local governments from judging what’s best for each local area to fight this deadly virus.

It is not acceptable for the governor to not spend over $400 million of federal CARES funds to fight this deadly virus.

For Iowa to reach a level where our businesses can be consistently open, our schools can uninterruptedly play sports, our theaters can show movies, our families can return to attend religious services and our kids can attend concerts, Iowa needs to be stronger.

Now, what do we recommend?

1. Enforce the White House Task Force of mandating statewide mask mandate and social distancing guidelines like other states that have lower per capita new COVID cases.

2. Reallocate the federal CARES money made available to Iowa to help keep businesses open, schools functioning, and front-line health care workers protected and not used the federal funds to balance the state budget.

3. Ensure rural hospitals and nursing homes are adequately supplied with PPE, including ventilators and N-95 masks.

4. Recognize local governments and school boards could be a significant partner with state government to share the authority to better work with their local businesses and schools without the autocratic “top down” authority from the governor.

5. Enhance the state Department of Public Health by fully funding county health departments to educate and direct public engagements with local businesses, schools, religious organizations and the public.

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We all want to grow Iowa’s economy, but we believe it cannot happen until we control this deadly virus. Our suggestions are intended to create more alternative strategies for our policy makers and citizens to change the direction we are heading, to protect Iowa families and return Iowans back to getting a regular paycheck without the insecurity of wondering if getting sick means unemployment, eviction, loneliness or even death!

We can do better, and we must do better.

Patty Judge is a former lieutenant governor and Iowa secretary of agriculture. Fred Hubbell is a businessman and former nominee for governor.

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