Gov. Kim Reynolds’ announcement last week to end some pandemic restrictions was a classic Friday news dump. That’s when newsmakers release controversial information just before the weekend, in hopes of escaping immediate scrutiny.
Surely the governor’s plan was in the works a day earlier when she had a news conference. But Reynolds didn’t mention it, so reporters couldn’t ask about it. What’s more, she reportedly didn’t discuss the changes with her own public health officials before making the announcement.
Iowans are no longer required to wear masks in certain public settings and the limit on gatherings is lifted under Reynolds’ updated emergency declaration.
It is a poorly timed and potentially dangerous decision, made even worse by the lack of transparency.
On Monday, Reynolds went on a prime-time television program to tout Iowa’s “targeted, balanced approach” to coronavirus, as she calls it.
So, before she answered questions from the Iowa press corps about her abrupt reopening plan, she sat for a nationally televised interview on Fox News with a right-wing pundit.
Host Sean Hannity steeped the conversation in cynical partisanship, claiming Reynolds’ move “prompted outrage from the left” and calling out an “angry editorial from the Des Moines Register.” Reynolds told Hannity that Iowa is “coming out of COVID in a really strong position,” as if to say the pandemic is already over, even as Iowans continue to die of the infection.
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It’s true that some of Iowa’s COVID-19 metrics have shown promising improvement in recent weeks, but we’re not where we need to be. Testing is down and vaccine deployment lags behind much of the country.
We hope and expect Iowans will continue to take the pandemic seriously, regardless of what restrictions the state imposes.
Local governments, including Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, will keep their mask mandates in place. Many businesses plan to maintain their mask policies and limited capacities. Individuals should continue to limit exposure to people outside the household and wear masks in public.
Most people will do the right thing to keep our communities safe, but the governor has missed yet another opportunity to set the tone. Who does Reynolds answer to — Fox News hosts or the people of Iowa?
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