Staff Columnist

Listen up, Iowa. It's time to shelter in place

Signs are posted on the door of Rustic Chic Boutique in downtown Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The spread o
Signs are posted on the door of Rustic Chic Boutique in downtown Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The spread of the novel coronavirus has forced businesses and restaurants to find new ways to continue working. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

The irrepressible Iowa spirit is out in full force these days — shopping, hiking and supporting local businesses. Parents are letting their teens have house parties. Parents themselves are having house parties. Men are still valiantly going into the office while their wives home-school the kids, because, as one neighbor told me, “It’s hard to work at home.” Elected officials tasked with pandemic response are just now returning from overseas spring break trips, the ones they left for after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. Multinational companies head quartered in Cedar Rapids are just now mandating work from home policies — a full week after the Governor declared a statewide emergency. It seems like, you cannot keep the Iowa spirit in check, and that’s exactly the problem. In a global pandemic, the irrepressible Iowa spirit needs to be repressed.

A tech company called Uncast tracked smartphone location data and revealed that Iowa is one of the worst states for social distancing practices, with only a 30% change in the average distance traveled.

An overwhelming majority of data shows that social distancing is the only way to slow the virus and prevent it from overwhelming hospitals and health care workers. Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota have all issued “shelter in place” orders that restrict people’s movements to only essential trips to the grocery store.

I don’t care if you don’t feel sick you can still be an asymptomatic carrier. This is not the movie Contagion, You are not Matt Daemon, you are not immune. Shelter in place now so we can get through this and then you can maybe go to a tailgate in the fall. But right now, I need you to keep your Iowa nice butt home on your Iowa nice couch.

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Kim Reynolds has refused to issue such an order arguing that Iowa essentially has a stay at home order and she’s relying on “the data” to determine her next steps. At a news conference on March 23, Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health stated, “As soon as the Department of Health comes across information or reaches a conclusion that more aggressive community mitigation guidelines or requirements are necessary, we will advise Gov. Reynolds about that immediately. We haven’t quite gotten there yet.”

Only the problem with this data-based approach is, we don’t have effective data, because we don’t have widespread testing and we don’t have widespread testing because kits are not available and kits are not available because our Federal government was slow in responding to the crisis and refused to use WHO approved testing kits, opting instead to have the CDC create their own kits, which were initially ineffective. It’s a circle of disaster, compounded by hesitancy and arrogance and it’s going to cost Americans their lives.

At every news conference, Reynolds talks about making data-based decisions, but the data those decisions are based on are not always clear and attempts to elucidate those data sets are met with the repeated refrain that when the data says so, the governor will let us know. What these data are we can’t know. But we’ll know when we have it, is not a reassuring reality for the public.

At a news conference on March 25, Reynolds also voiced concerns that a “shelter in place” order would negatively impact the state’s economy. She noted such an order would only place additional burdens on the supply chains for Iowa businesses. And said there’s no need to impose stringent shelter-in-place restrictions as long as Iowans continue to abide by voluntary measures intended to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. But that’s the problem, Iowans aren’t abiding by the voluntary measures.

And to pose the question as the balance of money and lives poses a cynical view that is willing to sacrifice lives of many for the 401(k)s of the few. But it’s the gamble our Federal government seems to be making. Donald Trump himself has said that he’d like to get the economy up and running by April 15, advice that runs counter to the advice of Dr. Fauci a member of the president’s coronavirus task force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“The whole concept of death is terrible. But there’s a tremendous difference between 1 percent and four or five,” said the president. And he’s joined by a growing chorus of conservative voices who are arguing that we sacrifice the lives of the elderly and the immunocompromised so the economy can restart.

The Guardian reported that MicroStrategy co-founder Michael J. Saylor sent a 3,000 word missive to his company callously arguing that we should continue working and only “quarantine the 40 million elderly retired, immune compromised people who no longer need to work or get educated.”

It’s the irredeemable logic of the party that’s spent the past 47 years telling us that abortion is murder. Apparently, murder is only bad when it’s done by women and not by Republicans. And it’s also just bad logic. The coronavirus is not just a health crisis for the old and the sick, it’s a crisis for our overwhelmed hospitals and health care workers who have inadequate personal protective equipment. It’s a crisis for all of us.

Gov. Reynolds also said that she doesn’t believe cities and counties have the legal authority to issue their own “shelter in place” orders. But she didn’t say anything about columnists, so allow me.

Listen up dinguses, it’s time to shelter in place. Your teens can mope and play video games in their rooms. It will be fine. Stay home from the office, Kevin. I know it’s hard to work from home, I’ve been doing it for two weeks and home schooling, you can do it, you have a law degree. And sure, your kids are loud, but what the hell do you think your wife has been doing all this time school’s been closed? You aren’t as essential as you think you are, Kevin! And Karen, one grocery store trip per week! Stay six feet away from people, it’s not hard. Stop hoarding all the soap and handsanitizer and paper towels. Janet, stay home! No small parties with friends they aren’t allowed. Glad you made it back safely from your trip to Puerto Rico, yes we know you went. Stay home and quarantine. I don’t care if you don’t feel sick you can still be an asymptomatic carrier. This is not the movie Contagion, You are not Matt Damon, you are not immune. Shelter in place now so we can get through this and then you can maybe go to a tailgate in the fall. But right now, I need you to keep your Iowa nice butt home on your Iowa nice couch. Got it? And companies, stop putting profits before people, tell your employees to stay home. Let them wear gloves. Give people some paid time off if you can. The government is literally trying to bail you out, while we will maybe get $1,200 in maybe four months? If we don’t live we can’t buy the garbage you are trying to sell. Which brings me to this, stop trying to sell me your pyramid scheme trash while we are home. It’s not going to cure anything or clean any germs. Did you hear me? Shelter in place.

I am not writing this as a comfortable rich person who can afford to take a few months off hiding away in the Catskills in my second home. I write this as a single mother, who up until recently was without health care and eyeballs deep in debt because of a career in writing isn’t exactly lucrative. I write this as someone in an industry that is already seeing the devastating ramifications of a slow economy with the decline of ad revenue. Media outlets bigger than The Gazette have already seen layoffs and pay cuts.

Will my job survive? Will my income continue? I don’t know, no one really does. But right now, I’d just like to make sure that our human lives continue. After all if you don’t live, who will send me hate mail?

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

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