Guest op-ed from House Democratic Leader Todd Prichard
On Friday, Governor Reynolds started loosening the public health measures being used to stop the spread of COVID-19. She also announced she would be taking additional steps to loosen more restrictions on Monday.
The announcement was made just minutes after she released data that suggested just the opposite. There were a record new number of positive coronavirus cases (521) and deaths (11). State officials also confirmed Iowa won’t reach our peak for another 2-3 weeks, one of the last in the nation. On Saturday, that record was shattered with another 648 positive cases reported.
In addition to those new record highs, Iowa is still under the PPE Shortage Order declared by the Governor as some front line workers still struggle with shortages. Iowans are also seeing new outbreaks at long-term care facilities, manufacturing facilities, and meat processing facilities develop every day across Iowa.
Earlier this week, the Governor launched the Test Iowa initiative to ramp up testing and get more data. It’s a step in the right direction and we’re all hopeful it will provide useful data to keep Iowans safe. However, it isn’t fully operational yet, tests are only being offered in Des Moines right now, and it takes 2-3 days to process the tests. In short, there isn’t any reliable data available yet from Test Iowa to make informed decisions about loosening restrictions.
Using the data we do have today, Iowa doesn’t even come close to meeting the criteria outlined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to begin re-opening either. Hospitalizations are still going up, not down. Documented positive cases and the percent of positive cases are both still rising. Our new testing initiative isn’t up and running at full speed yet.
So how do Iowans square what the data demonstrates vs. what they hear from the Governor?
The only answer is for the Governor to be more transparent. She needs to release more data to prove it’s safe to loosen the public health measures that prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Right now, I, like many Iowans, have more questions than answers as to the strategy to bring life back to normal. There is little to no information available on the new Iowa model being created that is supposed to help guide us through this crisis. Earlier this month, the Governor’s Office blocked public access to the state’s pandemic emergency response plan. While the screening process has begun for Test Iowa, we don’t even know how many days or weeks it will take to ramp up and conduct all the tests.
Instead of sending mixed signals, the Governor needs to provide clear leadership to bring Iowa out of this pandemic safely. As another week passes by in this new normal, Iowans deserve to see and understand the full scope of how and why decisions are being made to loosen restrictions designed to keep their family safe as well as do their part to bring life back to normal.
We all want to re-open our economy and get life back to normal as quickly as possible. If we’re in a rush to get what we all want before the data says it’s ok, we may end up prolonging the pain and doing more damage to the health and welfare of Iowans and the long term prospects of our economy.
by Rep. Todd Prichard
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