After being added to President Donald Trump’s Opening Up America Again task force today, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst is hopeful the country is just a little over two weeks away from reopening large parts of its economy.
In an interview this afternoon with WHO Radio’s Simon Conway, Ernst was asked about her thoughts on how quickly Americans could resume more normal activities and businesses shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic could reopen.
“Those of us in the less-affected states, less-affected areas, we certainly would love to see our businesses phased back in,” Ernst said. “And you’re right, it might make sense [to wait] in a Chicago or a New York or out in Oregon or Washington State, but for here in the Midwest, we need to get our economies up and going and get people back to work, as long as it is safe to do so. I think that we can provide those measures.”
Ernst does not seem to be too familiar with the state-by-state numbers. Oregon is currently reporting 1,736 infections, less than Iowa and with one of the lower per-capita rates in the country.
Regardless, Iowa’s 2,141 positive cases do trail most other states, but its per-capita numbers have been steadily rising in the past two weeks, moving past Texas, Wisconsin and North Carolina. In recent days, Louisa County has become one of the country’s biggest hot spots for the virus after an outbreak at the Tyson meat packing plant there infected 186 workers and has caused two deaths. The meat packing plant problem seems particularly out of control, as the state is now quickly sending 1,500 tests to Waterloo as a significant outbreak is suspected at a plant there.
Ernst, however, seems to view Iowa in a much rosier situation.
“If we’re in a safer area, then we can start phasing back into maybe not life-as-normal, but certainly much closer to normal than what we’ve experienced in the last several weeks,” she said was her message during the task force call today. Ernst noted that the President agreed.
The senator was careful to to add the “if it is safe” caveat to most of her answers, but overall seemed to mirror Trump’s optimistic view on where the United States is at in the course of the pandemic, even as the country marked its highest daily death total two days ago. She pivoted back to the simple suggestions that were made to the public near the beginning of the virus’ spread.
“You can take personal responsibility and make sure you are protecting yourself, isolating yourself as necessary,” Ernst said. “Again, going back to those simple things of washing our hands, covering our cough, staying home if you’re ill. All of those things will help us move back into a safer state of a working economy.”
Conway asked Ernst a simple question to end their brief interview: “When is America going to open for business?”
“I think that we will see it very soon, I think that probably by the end of this month, again, if it is safe to do so, governors will start determining that they will reopen their state for business,” Ernst replied. “I think we are well-positioned to start moving back in that direction as well. Again, we have not been hit as hard as some of these other states. What we are seeing in cases, they are not as severe as we thought initially.”
She added that she couldn’t give a more precise answer, but said, “I will advise my president to the best of my ability on opening up safely but as quickly as we can.”
Earlier today, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered the northeast region of the state to enact stricter social distancing measures through April 30 after the state’s “metrics” showed the situation there worsening.
by Pat Rynard
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