Last week, despite being exposed to COVID-19 by his press secretary, Vice President Mike Pence made a visit to Iowa, speaking with the governor and GOP leaders all without wearing a mask. In fact, as the Intercept first reported, when industry leaders at an event with the vice president attempted to wear masks, they were asked to remove them.
Gov. Kim Reynolds, who now is in a “modified quarantine” because of her exposure to the vice president and his team, also did not wear a mask.
When asked about the lack of masks on the visit, Reynolds said, “I did have a face covering with me, but we practiced social distancing the entire time.”
Yet photos from the trip captured by the Des Moines Register indicate that social distancing guidelines were not strictly adhered to.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of face masks to prevent the spread of the virus, noting that wearing a mask helps “people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.”
This isn’t the first CDC guideline the governor has violated. The CDC recommends against unnecessary travel, and Reynolds last week went to the White House to receive praise from the president on Iowa’s “success” even as the daily death totals rise. No masks were worn there either.
The guidelines, both state and national, have changed as swiftly as the virus has spread throughout the nation. Initially, U.S. Health officials had discouraged the use of face masks among healthy Americans. But as researchers learned more about the virus and how it spreads from asymptomatic people to the rest of the community, officials changed their recommendations.
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While masks are not a panacea for stopping the spread of the virus, they are a good first step in protecting against community spread. This week, University of Iowa epidemiologists authored a paper encouraging Iowans to use face shields, which experts believe could be more effective than homemade cloth masks. And the best advice for preventing the spread of COVID-19 is to stay at home. But with Reynolds lifting restrictions, many Iowans are going to be forced back to work or lose their jobs.
And cloth masks are the best tool we have at the moment to protect the vulnerable people we have around us. Despite the fact that many of our elected leaders are flouting these recommendations, that doesn’t mean we should. Iowans, please, care enough to put on a mask.
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