Pressure on Gov. Kim Reynolds to formally issue a “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” order is mounting as state lawmakers and more members of Congress this week sent letters in support of stricter measures to keep Iowans inside.
1st District Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer was the first federal official to do so, sending a letter to the governor one week ago, as news of the first three deaths related to COVID-19 were reported. Since then, the death toll has grown to 11. In one week’s time, the number of Iowans infected with the new coronavirus jumped from 235 on March 27 to 699 today.
At the start of this week, in light of news Iowa was nearing its first “peak” in coronavirus cases, 3rd District Congresswoman Cindy Axne also issued her support for a stay-at-home order.
“A stay-at-home order will require, instead of simply recommending, one of the best possible methods that Iowa can employ to help stop the spread of coronavirus,” Axne wrote. “In my conversations with public health experts across my district, their advice also confirms that such an order would help reduce the burden that further hospitalizations would put on Iowa’s hospitals and health care professionals.”
A spokesman for 2nd District Congressman Dave Loebsack said he has spoken with Reynolds “and personally communicated to her that he is in favor of issuing a stay-at-home order.”
Though Reynolds has recommended remote learning for schools and closed several sectors of non-essential business, as Starting Line reported today, without a formal order, many manufacturing workers at places like Pella, John Deere and Siemens Gamesa are still showing up to work by the hundreds. And on Thursday, KCCI published drone footage of an Amish horse auction in Wayne County that drew more than 400 people from Iowa and other states.
At her press conferences this week, Reynolds shifted some of the language she uses to communicate how Iowans should protect themselves and others from the virus, stating individuals should leave their homes for “essential errands only” rather than her previous guidance to “stay home when you’re sick.”
On Twitter today her office launched a new graphic with guidance to “stay home as much as possible.”
— Gov. Kim Reynolds (@IAGovernor) April 3, 2020
On Thursday, Democratic leaders in the Iowa House and Senate echoed the calls of their members of Congress, asking the governor to implement a statewide order.
“A gubernatorial shelter-in-place order would send a clearer message that more Iowans must stay home to flatten the curve and save lives,” the letter, signed by Sen. Janet Petersen and Rep. Todd Prichard, states. “It would also allow Iowa’s economy to recover faster. Leaders from both parties in more than 35 states who represent 85% of the American population have already issued such orders.”
A New York Times graphic shows only five states (Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Arkansas) have no statewide or regional stay-at-home orders. In consultation with the state attorney general, Reynolds has said Iowa law prohibits local municipalities from issuing their own directives.
As of Friday evening, four states, including Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma and South Carolina have orders activated in certain cities and counties. All others are under statewide orders.
Earlier this week, state Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, and a pharmacist, published an op-ed outlining why he believes a statewide order is necessary.
“Many health care experts believe the key to slowing down COVID-19’s spread is limiting social contact before the virus takes hold in the community,” Forbes wrote in the Des Moines Register. “There’s no virtue in waiting. Business closures and social distancing are meant to be a preventive. The number of cases continues to grow. A look at any number of retail stores and playgrounds demonstrate many Iowans not practicing social distancing, despite the governor’s recommendation.”
Today, the Des Moines Register reported the Iowa Board of Medicine also believes a stay-at-home order is necessary, voting unanimously on the issue during an emergency meeting.
U.S. Senate candidates also have weighed in. Theresa Greenfield said Iowa needs “to use every tool in the toolbox to protect our health and safety, and right now that means implementing a statewide stay-at-home order that goes into effect as soon as possible.”
During a Facebook Live event on Thursday, Eddie Mauro said, “there should be state patrol cars and police cars driving around and when they see people not being socially responsible to let them know.”
Candidates Michael Franken and Kimberly Graham also have publicly stated their support for a statewide directive.
By Elizabeth Meyer