Staff Columnist

All Iowans are gamblers in Kim's COVID Casino

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a news conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa, o
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a news conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa, on Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

Iowa’s gaming parlors are closed. There’s no sports betting without sports. Slots are silent.

But thanks to Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa has plenty of high stakes gambling action, in every county, city and burg.

We’re all rolling the dice in Kim’s COVID Casino now.

We have seen some positive curve-bending lately in the state’s effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Hospitalizations have been declining for days, although cases and deaths continue to mount. There’s been more testing and contact-tracing, key steps to containing the virus and bending the curve even further.

But testing is just ramping up. Iowa still is testing thousands fewer daily than needed. Test Iowa’s effort has been slow out of the gate and plagued by problems. And yet, the Utah tech firms behind the testing already have hit the jackpot.

We could stand on this hand, see how it plays out for a few more weeks. The curve may indeed flatten. Remain disciplined. Play it safe.

Instead, on Wednesday, Reynolds announced more business reopenings, while rolling back many protective measures in all 99 counties, starting Friday. She’s gambling that we won’t see a second sharp surge in virus cases, even as she maintains her own “modified quarantine” after mingling with unmasked White House officials on her recent victory tour. She’s also quit sending out detailed daily reports on virus numbers. Don’t fixate on deaths. They’re just “lagging indicators.”

Have we reached the peak? Probably? Maybe? The predictive model still is under wraps.

But it’s no guts, no glory at COVID Casino. It’s time to get back in the game. Big bucks and political power are on the table. Baby needs a new pair of shoes, and there still are plenty of ventilators for granny.

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Sure, without more testing and tracing, we’re flying in fog, perhaps on a casino owner’s borrowed jet. But, oh, what a rush. How will it all turn out? The suspense is killing us.

Standing the economy back up is necessary. But there will be no real, sustained recovery if Iowans are unconvinced we’ve handled the pandemic. Picking the economy over public health is a false bet. Solving the public health problem is key to economic recovery and restoring confidence.

There’s certainly an economic risk to sticking with protective measures longer and resisting more reopening for a couple more weeks. But consider the consequences of pulling that big reopening slot machine arm too soon. A second spike and a return to restrictions would be even more devastating. Instead of bouncing back, Iowa’s health and economic problems would intensify, while more Iowans fall ill or become lagging indicators.

Betting the lives of our most vulnerable on the “personal responsibility” of others before we know more about the pandemic’s grip here is a reckless wager, leaving thousands of Iowans and their loved ones in fearful limbo. They can’t simply adjust and move on.

Dr. Anthony Fauci warned the U.S. Senate this week that rapid reopening could have dire consequences. Instead, Iowa’s putting its money on the whiplash wisdom of the casino wizard in the White House, who is willing to bet our lives on his reelection prospects. Our guts, his glory.

So we’re all gamblers now, living in the COVID Casino. Win big! Or maybe buy the farm! Masks optional.

(319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@tehgazette.com

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