Looking around Iowa, you might not know the COVID-19 pandemic is ramping back up.
When school resumes, only some Iowa districts will have online options, masks won’t be required, and administrators have few options beyond encouraging their use. The Iowa State Fair will be open to everyone regardless of vaccination status, and masks won’t be required anywhere. The state’s vaccination rate of the total population hovers just above 50 percent.
Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden called out the governors of states who have banned measures like mask mandates for businesses, schools and universities, and he called for real leadership from everyone.
“Some state officials are passing laws or signing orders that forbid people from doing the right thing. As of now, seven states not only ban mask mandates, but also ban them in their school districts, even for young children who can’t get vaccinated,” Biden said.
Those states include Iowa, Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina.
“Look, we need leadership from everyone. If some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic then they should allow businesses, universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it,” Biden said. “I say to these governors, please help. If you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing.”
In May, Reynolds signed a bill to ban schools—both public and private—from mandating students and staff wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The signing happened late at night and was enforced the next morning.
With the increased spread of the Delta variant, institutions like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and some Iowa hospitals have all said masks should be required for school this year.
Children younger than 12 aren’t vaccinated, as the vaccines aren’t expected to be approved until this winter.
Reynolds has not indicated any movement on that issue.
Republicans in the state are also outraged that some private businesses—from hospital systems to Tyson Foods—have talked about implementing, or have already established, vaccine requirements for employees.
They’re expected to push a bill to ban those during the Iowa Legislature’s special redistricting session that’s yet to be announced.
Last Wednesday, Reynolds said the newest advice about masks is frustrating and confusing, and she doesn’t think data shows a difference in COVID-19 spread between states with mask mandates and those without. She instead stressed the need for everyone to receive the vaccine.
Reynolds didn’t issue any kind of mask requirement for Iowa until November 2020, and even then it was limited and she removed it in February.
by Nikoel Hytrek