Sen. Joni Ernst was asked this week to describe how Iowa is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, providing the Trump campaign a markedly different answer from how she described the state two weeks ago.
“It has been a hard time in Iowa, but because we have such strong leadership coming from the White House we are making it through,” Ernst said Monday night during a “Trump Team Online” event hosted by the president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump.
In an April 23 interview, however, Ernst struck a different cord when asked how Iowa was coping with COVID-19.
“Iowa has fared pretty well. We are a very rural state, but some of the restrictions that have been put in place by our governor have worked quite well,” Ernst told Breitbart in a radio interview. “We are of course saddened by the deaths that we have had, but we have not been hit nearly as hard as some of the more metro areas or coastal areas. We have had a couple of recent outbreaks at some of our meat processing facilities — because they are essential workers they continue going into work and being with each other every day — but overall Iowa has done very well through the pandemic.”
At the time of the Breitbart interview, Iowa had the fourth-highest growth rate of coronavirus in the country, some of the nation’s largest numbers of cases per capita and confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 at 23 long-term care facilities across the state.
In the 13 days since the Breitbart interview was published, Iowa has gone from 3,924 cases to more than 10,000.
On Tuesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks (at least 10% of workers infected) at Tyson factories in Perry, Waterloo and Columbus Junction; Iowa Premium Beef in Tama; and the TPI Inc. wind-turbine plant in Newton.
At Perry’s pork processing plant, 730 people, or 58% of employees, have tested positive.
In all, more than 1,600 workers at four of the state’s meat packing plants have been diagnosed with the respiratory disease.
The number of outbreaks at long-term care facilities also has grown to 28 facilities in 12 counties.
Gov. Kim Reynolds is at the White House today to meet with President Donald Trump and “give them an update on how we’re doing in Iowa.” And on Friday, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Des Moines to meet with faith leaders and visit Hy-Vee’s headquarters to talk about protecting the nation’s food supply.
By Elizabeth Meyer
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