Staff Columnist

Iowa is not doing OK

Everyone wants to talk about Portland, no one is talking about what a huge failure Iowa is

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a news conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday, April
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a news conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Johnston. Gov. Reynolds announced there have been another 508 positive tests and 9 more deaths related to COVID-19.

Popular rhetoric in conservative media posits that Democratic-run cities are doing poorly. But let me tell you about the red state of Iowa.

Things are not OK in Iowa.

Iowa has the fastest growing number of COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation. And congratulations. It takes a state full of negligent leaders to achieve this important honor.


"At this point, a stalk of corn could run the state or our universities better. The corn might not do anything, but at least it wouldn’t be a waste of oxygen."


First goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has led with metrics and data. By which I mean, a manipulation of and complete denial of metrics and data.

Turns out, the state has been backdating positive cases. And apparently, our state epidemiologist knew about this “glitch” but still used that faulty data to push for schools to reopen in person. Also, the data is still not adding up. Calling this a glitch is like calling the Bay of Pigs a small misunderstanding among friends.

The reality is, the state knowingly used bad data to push to send kids and teachers to schools. And now, schools are opening and immediately being forced to close and move online because of outbreaks. But we don’t even know how many, because schools aren’t required to report that information.

For months, the state has been refusing to release specific Test Iowa data, saying they don’t have it, which doesn’t seem right. Both Utah and Nebraska, which have the same testing program as Iowa, have reported these numbers. Also, presumably the company in charge, Nomi Health, would have those numbers, since contractually they get all that data. Turns out, our $26 million no-bid contract, sold to us by Ashton Kutcher, didn’t get us much except an expensive magic cloak to help hide the reality of the pandemic in our state. At this point, a handful of magic beans would have been a better deal.

Also case numbers are a lagging indicator. Reynolds’ order last week, closing bars in six counties as the state impales itself on its COVID-19 spike, is just about as useful as spitting on a California forest fire. And that spit is landing back in her face, because now struggling bar owners are resisting the shutdown. If Reynolds had kept restrictions for even two more weeks, we wouldn’t be in this place.

But it’s not all the state’s fault. This is a team effort.

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The University of Iowa, led by Bruce Harreld, is forcing the school to meet in person with no testing plan and bars as wide open as a derecho-ruined cornfield. Harreld, who only recently returned to Iowa from his second home, has refused to do literally anything to ensure a mass testing protocol or to enforce mask wearing or social distancing. But he did send some stern emails to students and criticized small-business owners. Sure, thanks, buddy. That ought to do it. You can’t blame him though, he’s a businessman, and they’re used to sacrificing people for profit.

But don’t miss what’s happening in Ames, the No. 1 city in America for COVID infections per capita. Iowa State University is planning a football game with 25,000 people.

At this point, a stalk of corn could run the state or our universities better. The corn might not do anything, but at least it wouldn’t be a waste of oxygen.

But we are here, and who could have predicted this except absolutely every epidemiologist in the state, who have been sounding the warning since Reynolds lifted restrictions in May.

Well, every epidemiologist except the state’s own epidemiologist, who seems to think it’s all OK. And I’m just talking COVID-19 right now. I haven’t mentioned the congressional candidate who shared a stage with a Nazi or the fact that at one point our governor hit a protester with her car and no one seems to care. Or the fact that Iowa had the equivalent of a category four hurricane blow through and it took the governor a week to ask for aid — a week of people sleeping on the streets with no help. And the president took another two weeks to send in the requested aid. Or the fact that two weeks before Ames, Iowa became the number one Covid hotspot in the nation, our actual governor was pictured there, in large groups without a mask. Oh and schools are opening in person. Did I mention that?

No, like a Midwestern mom when her daughter tries to talk about maybe majoring in English at Thanksgiving dinner, Reynolds has handled all of this with tight-lipped denials and an assurance it’s fine.

Nearly 1,200 people are dead in the state and no one is stopping it. None of this is fine.

lyz.lenz@thegazette.com; 319-368-8513

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