Staff Columnist

Gov. Reynolds sides with the nothing-to-see-here chorus as the coronavirus spreads

In this image from video, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks from Des Moines, Iowa, during the second night of the Republican
In this image from video, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks from Des Moines, Iowa, during the second night of the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via AP)

A few weeks back a guy called me to ask me if I was still working from home. When I told him I was he became irate.

Because I put my laptop on a flat surface in Marion instead of a flat surface downtown, he accused me of being scared and hiding from the pandemic. He said I should be on the job. And until I’m back on the job, I should have my pay cut.

He joins a chorus of folks I hear from each time I write about COVID-19 and our shoddy state response to its uncontrolled spread. It’s overblown. Death counts have been exaggerated. It’s no worse than the flu. The whole thing is cooked up to hurt the president.

It would be easy to dismiss this stuff. But, unfortunately, these views are having more of an impact on Iowa’s coronavirus response than the advice of doctors and infectious disease experts. When Gov. Kim Reynolds says we have to live with the virus and resists even the White House’s advice to close bars in hard hit counties and require masks, she’s siding with the no-big-deal, nothing-to-see-here chorus.

A CBS/You Gov poll released this week found that 57 percent of Republicans believe the national death toll from the coronavirus, more than 176,000 dead, is “acceptable.” And 40 percent of Republicans said they believe the death toll is inflated, even as health experts say it’s likely an undercount.

Reynolds, a Republican, has refused to change course even as average case counts, hospitalizations and test positivity rates rise. More than 1,000 Iowans have died, which is apparently acceptable.

Her administration was caught red-handed releasing case counts health officials knew to be flawed because of a software “glitch.” These are the counts Team Reynolds used to determine that schools across Iowa be required to teach at least 50 percent of core subjects in person. The bad numbers were uncovered by Iowa City nurse practitioner, Dana Jones, while journalists were also digging.

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Rather than be humbled by the scandal, the Reynolds administration dug in, denying requests by school districts pleading to start the year with online instruction as the virus spreads locally. Now Des Moines and Iowa City schools are going to court in an effort to protect students and staff.

Already, positive cases are cropping up at schools. In my hometown, the Belmond-Klemme football team has been quarantined and will miss its opener.

Meanwhile, thousands of college students have returned to state universities, where they’re, unsurprisingly, congregating at the usual watering holes. University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld blamed bar owners, but not his university’s ill-conceived back-to-campus plans or the governor who refuses to close the bars.

But none of this is really a problem, as we’ve learned this week at the Republican National Convention. President Donald Trump has handled the pandemic brilliantly. It’s actually journalists who are the real enemy, along with socialists and Marxists and anarchist protesters coming to overrun the suburbs.

Instead of a mask, the GOP’s patriotic uniform is a pink polo, khakis and an AR-15. It seems I must defend English Glenn subdivision to its last shrub. And when that guy calls again, I’ll tell him I’m at home meeting the true threat. He’ll understand.

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

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