Staff Editorial

State and federal leaders need to provide relief, not blame

Bar staff check IDs and ensure that customers are wearing masks outside of DC's in Iowa City on the night of Saturday, A
Bar staff check IDs and ensure that customers are wearing masks outside of DC's in Iowa City on the night of Saturday, August 22, 2020. (Nick Rohlman/freelance for The Gazette)

Bar owners are suing Gov. Kim Reynolds for ordering them to close in six counties as Iowa reached No. 1 in the nation for per capita coronavirus cases. The lawsuit asks the governor to only shut down “bad actors.” But the reality is the “bad actors” in this case permeate every level of leadership.

The rise in our numbers is due to many factors, including the governor lifting restrictions on all businesses, not enforcing a mask mandate, forcing schools back in person and the Board of Regents and university leadership pushing to open in person, just to name a few.

This lack of leadership has had a trickledown effect. Because our state wasn’t willing to enforce masks and social distancing, neither were the bars and restaurants, now the focus of the outbreak restrictions.

To be clear, bars and restaurants owners bear responsibility for allowing patrons to gather en masse and unmasked and without enforcing social distancing. The editorial board supports closing bars, but we feel the decision is coming too late.

On every level, decisions were made through an equation that has put profit over the lives of the people. But it was a false calculation. Experts warned that opening too soon would mean we’d need to shut down again. Our state’s elected leaders and our university leaders failed to listen, business owners failed to enforce, so here we are.

It’s clear, as Iowa’s case numbers rise and individual human lives are lost every day to a disease that we continue to spread, something more needs to be done.

If Reynolds is going to shut down bars, our state and federal leadership need to step up and give businesses additional grants and funding to help them survive. This funding needs to be proactive and not reactive. The virus is here with us until a viable vaccine is ready and that could be many more months.


Currently, there are stimulus bills awaiting approval in the U.S. Senate. Our senators, however, are on vacation, while Iowans suffer without aid. On Sept. 2, Reynolds announced she was allowing bars impacted by the closure to apply for a one-time grant. The program is a good first step, but as this pandemic continues we need more proactive plans not reactive ones.

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