Gov. Kim Reynolds still refuses to step in to make real progress on conquering COVID-19 in Iowa.
Reynolds held a press conference Thursday morning to talk about the recent increases in COVID cases in the state, while also refusing to commit to exercising any power other than encouraging people to get vaccinated.
“With vaccines widely available, the rise we’re currently experiencing isn’t a cause for panic,” she said.
That rise includes 524 Iowans hospitalized with COVID as of Thursday afternoon. Reynolds said 79% of those people were unvaccinated when infected and 90% of patients currently in the intensive-care unit are unvaccinated.
Reynolds said Iowa is in a strong position with the vaccine and emphasized that numbers were worse last year.
Still, when asked about the people who refuse to get vaccinated, Reynolds fell back on her usual position that it’s their choice.
“I’m going to put my confidence in them, they’re going to make that decision,” Reynolds said.
She said those who are unvaccinated probably have legitimate reasons, and the best she can do is have the education and information available.
In response to calls from journalists, parents, and local leaders, Iowa Department of Human Services Director Kelly Garcia said the state will change its COVID dashboard once again to prioritize certain information. Additionally, the dashboard will be updated on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays starting Friday, Sept. 3. The dashboard was updated daily last year and, prior to today’s announcement, was updated once a week on Wednesdays.
The highlighted information will include hospitalizations and the percent of those hospitalized who are unvaccinated alongside the typical positivity and vaccination rates.
“It is our goal to highlight the critical information Iowans want more frequently,” Garcia said. “But this approach and frequency also allows time for our data team to ensure the accuracy of that deeper-level information.”
Reynolds addressed students going back to school with fewer required mitigation measures than last year.
“As is common every single year when school starts, students are exposed to a number of viruses and may become ill, and this year will be no different,” she said.
Reynolds said the risk for serious illness for children is low, although that discounts long-term effects and other risks. She said 2% of Iowans hospitalized with COVID are under age 18.
Iowa doesn’t have any requirements that schools track and report outbreaks, and Garcia said it’s up to the schools to make that decision.
When asked about parents who are concerned about their at-risk children going to schools where masks aren’t guaranteed, Reynolds said it’s their choice to make.
“It’s their right to wear a mask,” she said. “Again, it’s a law in Iowa I believe parents can visit with their doctors, and then they will make an informed decision on what’s the best thing for their child, and that’s where I believe that it needs to stay.”
Because COVID is still spreading through Iowa, Reynolds said people need to accept their responsibility for managing it. That includes keeping children home when they’re sick, monitoring for symptoms, talking to their doctors, getting tested as soon as symptoms appear, and getting vaccinated.
She reminded people about treatments for COVID infections and isolation guidelines.
However, her position on masks being a decision best left for parents hasn’t changed.
“They’re going to have to take that information, just like with vaccines, and make an informed decision as to what is best for their child,” she said.
The last question at the press conference was directed at Garcia. She was asked whether or not she would recommend masks for school children; however, Reynolds interjected.
“It doesn’t really matter because it’s a law at this point,” Reynolds said, although a recommendation would not violate state law. “It is a law that elected officials that are elected by Iowans and constituents across this state listened to the people that they represent, passed a bill, sent it to my desk, and it was signed into law.”
by Nikoel Hytrek