Gov. Kim Reynolds has said often Iowa has entered the “recovery” stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it seems more like Iowans have been set adrift in an unrelenting sea of new virus cases, lacking strong state leadership and uncertain of what will happen next.
What’s happening now is what’s happening across the nation, COVID-19 cases in Iowa are rising and hospitalizations have gradually trended upward in recent days. Reopening the state earlier than health experts advised means that our virus curve never descended. Community spread continues. That’s especially true in counties that have seen sharp upticks in cases among younger Iowans.
We’re living with the virus, as the governor likes to say. But it’s getting harder.
Some businesses allowed to reopen are now re-closing after employees or customers tested positive for COVID-19. University faculty are sounding the alarm about the dangers of in-person, on-campus instruction in the fall. Public schools have been left with vague state guidance as they weigh plans for reopening schools next month.
The governor and high school sports governing entities allowed summer baseball and softball seasons to begin in June, making Iowa the first state to do so. Now numerous of teams have been sidelined by coronavirus cases. It’s an ominous sign for schools and the prospects for fall sports.
The mayor of Muscatine and other local government leaders who want to lead are being told by state leaders they don’t have the legal authority to require face coverings and other rules intended to address local virus hot spots. Instead, they’re supposed to trust their constituents to simply do the right thing.
If state leaders have a plan for handling COVID-19’s summer resurgence, we haven’t seen it. The governor seemed to indicate this week that putting restrictions on businesses back in place is a possibility. All options are on the table, she said, which is politician-speak for we don’t know what to do.
It’s maddening, considering that holding off on reopening in April and May could have helped us better mitigate the daunting health risk now looming over the fall. It didn’t have to be this way. Many experts predicted this. Our leaders didn’t listen.
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Now, it’s hard to imagine how the situation can improve enough in the next month or so to bring schools and universities back to classrooms, even with precautions. Are we really going to put tens of thousands of people in football stadiums? What happens if our economy crashes again?
We need clear answers and clear-eyed leadership. The governor says she trusts Iowans to do the right thing. We need a government we can trust to give us a strong dose of truth, and protect public health.
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