Staff Columnist

Pressing Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on her COVID-19 response isn't 'divisive,' its necessary

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a news conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, IA, on
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a news conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, IA, on Monday, April 6, 2020.

Gov. Kim Reynolds says pointed, persistent questions about her efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 are “divisive.” Her allies accuse those questioning the governor of playing politics.

Most annoying to team Reynolds are questions about the oft-mentioned but not thoroughly explained “data and metrics” guiding her COVID calls, including her resistance to issuing a statewide shelter at home order. The governor contends business closures, social distancing and other measures she’s put in place are just as good.

And yet, there will be no statewide order. Don’t ask.

Instead there are regional scores charting the severity of the pandemic, but what those scores really mean in terms of response remains stubbornly fuzzy. What about a lack of testing that skews the true picture? Of course we want mitigation measures to work. But at a moment when Iowans need crystal clear messages, questions go unanswered.

But, hey, stop being political and divisive. The Iowa Board of Medicine wants stronger actions, but Dr. Anthony Fauci approves of Reynolds’ regimen, so pipe down.

It is political. It’s political when the governor decides Iowans are not on her need-to-know list. It happens when she refuses to take positions on proposed legislation or explain why agency directors get canned or when she’s crafting far-reaching bills behind closed doors. What we don’t know can’t hurt her.

Not telling us things is not a COVID-19 side effect. It’s a preexisting condition.

If the governor and her Republican friends don’t want people to question the wisdom of their health care decisions, don’t botch so many of them. From massively mishandling Medicaid privatization to failing Iowans seeking medical cannabis to decimating women’s health care accessibility, the record is lacking.

It’s true, the governor has done very good things on the mental health front. But Republicans would rather cut taxes, mostly for high-end earners, than adequately fund those good efforts.


Speaking of tax cuts, don’t act so shocked when we speculate the governor’s COVID decisions are steeped in business interests, possibly at the expense of health concerns. Countless past decisions clearly were guided by the demands of large corporate and agricultural interests, the check-writers and jet-loaners.

There’s the governor who makes decisions based on sound science and data. And there’s the governor who wholeheartedly backs our anti-science, anti-honesty president. At least we’ve stopped talking about all the socialism as government help becomes critical.

How you govern matters most at critical moments. Governing a whole state to please mainly your political allies, while shutting out other voices, bulldozing legislation to passage with little chance for those affected to react and not playing it straight when difficult questions arise can make it tough to convince folks to rally around a governor.

We want her to succeed, because lives are at stake. But that also means there is no reason we should stop asking questions and demanding to know what’s really happening. We can agree with what the governor has done but still ask for much stronger medicine.

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