Gov. Kim Reynolds has no idea what’s going on in her state.
As Iowa draws international notoriety for its complete inability to contain the coronavirus, topping the lists for the worst current spread in the U.S., Reynolds was somehow completely unaware of a major decision regarding COVID-19 in her state.
At her 11:00 a.m. press conference today, Reynolds strongly defend Iowa State University’s decision to let 25,000 fans into Jack Trice Stadium for their home opener next Saturday. The announcement on Monday drew massive backlash and national media coverage, as Ames has been the first or second-worst city in the country for recent COVID-19 spread.
“We can do these things safely and responsible,” Reynold said when asked about ISU’s game. “We can open our schools back up. We can open our colleges back up … But we have to have personal responsibility.”
Reynolds went on to explain how the cases had risen dramatically in Story and Johnson counties amid the return of college students, but offered no explanation why no further preemptive steps had been taken. Instead she pivoted back to her decision to close bars and nightclubs in six counties, which only happened after the massive outbreaks occurred, though she did note she may take additional steps if the situation doesn’t improve.
The Governor seemed to get frustrated as reporters continued to press her on the public concern surrounding the game.
“If you don’t think it’s safe, don’t go,” she said before moving on to other questions, just minutes after saying that infected students can still spread the virus to community members.
There was just one problem with Reynolds’ press conference: just a little over an hour afterward, ISU announced they were cancelling the fan attendance at the game.
“President [Wendy] Wintersteen shared with me on Tuesday evening that, after weighing feedback she has received from the community, she has decided to reverse the decision,” ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard said in a news release. “As a result, we will play the season opener without fans.”
And that part of Pollard’s statement is very, very important and telling. Wintersteen made the decision Tuesday night that the game would not have fans. Reynolds’ press conference was the following day at 11:00 a.m.
How on earth did Reynolds not touch base with ISU recently (or they not reach out to her) knowing full well that it would be a major topic at the press conference?
The ISU game decision dominated Iowa social media. It was picked up in a lot of national news stories. It presented an awful look for the state that was already utterly failing on COVID-19.
So how in the hell was Reynolds not better prepared for what was going to happen today? She didn’t have to defend it so fully, she could have said it was the college’s decision and noted that Pollard said in his original announcement that they may revisit it.
“We’re playing football on Friday nights,” Reynolds insisted. “We did a whole summer of softball and baseball, where 95% of the teams were able to complete the season, and that was over, was 600 teams I think that participated in summer or in baseball and softball, and we were able to manage and mitigate that.”
Reynolds offered that as a positive, but the state still now, at the end of summer, has the worst COVID-19 spread in the U.S.
The Governor did highlight a college during her presser: Northwestern College in Orange City. President Greg Christy joined Reynolds today virtually to explain the many steps they’d taken to keep their students safe and healthy. It actually sounded like a really great plan, which just made you wonder why the state didn’t implement better ideas like it at the largest state universities, where far more students attend.
It seemed like Reynolds was so focused on presenting a good image of what was working on one small Iowa college, she failed to check in today on the larger ones where outbreaks are so bad they’re literally the worst in the country. And she ended up looking like an idiot for it.
Such is par for the course in Iowa during the pandemic, it seems.
by Pat Rynard
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