Staff Columnist

Sorry Kim Reynolds, we aren't all in this together

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds listens to a question as she updates the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a ne
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds listens to a question as she updates the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center, Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Johnston, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, pool)

On Monday April 27, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that COVID-19 was now part of the daily life of Iowans. “We have to learn to live with this,” she said and then announced plans to begin opening up 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

The weekend before, Iowa reported its highest numbers of new COVID-19 cases and became first in the nation again. Only this time it’s not for our caucus, but for how fast the virus is spreading in the state. The reality is the fastest growing places for COVID-19 are here in Iowa. On April 8 and 20, University of Iowa researchers warned the governor that if she removed restrictions a second wave of infections was likely. She removed them anyway. Her efforts are not controlling the spread of the virus, she is inviting the virus into our state and then letting it lick all our doorknobs.

Despite these facts, Reynolds said Monday that her efforts were helping Iowa “get in front of the peak.” Which is the equivalent like pushing people in front of a train and wanting credit for it.

From this moment on, any more COVID-19 cases and deaths Iowa experiences can be directly laid at the feet of our governor, who has made it very clear, we aren’t in this together at all.

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From the beginning of this pandemic, people, companies, and political leaders have loved to repeat the refrain that “we are all in this together.” As some sort of rallying cry. A way to encourage unity and hope. Gov. Reynolds has said this in news conferences and on Twitter. “We’re all in this together!” But that statement rests on a fundamental denial of inequality in America and in Iowa, where the virus is disproportionately affecting black and brown people, immigrants, and the formerly incarcerated who work at meat packing and food processing plants. The virus is disproportionately affecting health care workers and “essential workers,” who often earn minimum wage. A wage that GOP leaders in Iowa and nationally have refused to raise. And now, with the state opening up, furloughed workers are being told to go back to work or risk losing their jobs. I put “essential workers” in quotes because many of those workers are not essential for our daily lives, they are only essential for corporations to make money. Some of them may die, but to quote the great leader Lord Farquaad from the movie Shrek, that’s a risk our governor is willing to take.

The disease disproportionately affects aging Iowans as well. Many of whom are locked inside long-term care facilities with no respite and little protection from the outbreaks as they spread.

So, no Kim Reynolds, we aren’t in this together. When you refuse to shut down meat packing plants, you are valuing one life over another. When you open up our state before we’ve hit our peak, when you won’t commit to a pandemic model, when you won’t tell us what model you are using or have any sort of transparency, you show you are willing to sacrifice the life and livelihoods of some Iowans so other Iowans can drink Busch Light on bar patios again. I want to drink Busch Light on a patio too, but not before I know all Iowans are safe.

Also on April 27, in Black Hawk County, officials there had a news conference to announce that nearly 1 percent of the residents there had COVID-19. It was a different news conference than the governor’s, one that acknowledged the fear and the loss of life.

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Right next door to Black Hawk County are Butler, Grundy and Buchanan Counties, all of which will be opening back up on May 1.

From this moment on, any more COVID-19 cases and deaths Iowa experiences can be directly laid at the feet of our governor, who has made it very clear, we aren’t in this together at all.

lyz.lenz@thegazette.com; (319) 450-0547

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