Ignoring the doctors

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Gov. Kim Reynolds is endangering the public health by not issuing a statewide stay-at-home order in direct contradiction of medical experts. Reynolds has been slow, halting and unclear as this pandemic mounted. Now she is on the verge of being reckless, even going so far as to say that the mayors of Des Moines and Iowa City did not have the authority to issue such orders for the safety of their own communities.

At first, we thought the governor deserved a wide berth in being as flexible as possible while following expert medical advice. Thursday evening, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he could not understand why a few states were holding out on sheltering orders. (Hint: All the states are governed by Republicans who quake in fear of President Trump.) Friday morning, the Iowa Medical Board (appointed by Reynolds) urged her to issue a statewide order. And on Saturday, the Iowa Medical Society sent us a letter to that effect.

Reynolds responded that Dr. Fauci did not have all the facts.

Neither do we. We have no clue how many people have been tested. We really don’t know how many cases there are. We don’t know if we have enough medical equipment or hospital beds. The governor is not telling us how rural areas will cope with this.

Perhaps if she would listen to the experts she could lead Iowa out of this vacuum of ignorance.

Because, the experts say that if we don’t get a handle on this through social distancing, we will be overwhelmed. Rural areas will be especially hard hit.

Reynolds insists that her previous orders — the latest were bans on using playground equipment or going to the pool hall — amount to stay-at-home orders. She has asked, politely, for workers in non-essential industries to stay home. If we’re already effectively in lockdown (which we are not), then what is the problem with issuing a comprehensive order? Or at least allow the mayors in hotspots like Iowa City emergency powers?

We understand that meatpacking is an essential industry. So are groceries and general supply stores and trucking and, yes, even the media. A lot of industries don’t need to be exposing their workers to infection but do anyhow. Sometimes, you have to order a lockdown to control the knuckleheads who just fail to cooperate as they have since kindergarten. Lord knows, we could use some of that in Storm Lake. Sure, most of us are trying, but not all of us are and those few can kill us old folks. If you pay heed to the cellphone tracking data, Buena Vista County gets a “D” report card because we are not staying home. Most rural areas get a poor grade.

Dr. Deborah Birx said last week the data indicate that Americans are not staying put as they should. She has the facts, governor.

That’s why Iowa needs leadership now. If a catastrophe besets us, Reynolds will be held responsible. The medical board and Drs. Fauci and Birx have given her all the political cover she needs to hold off business interests. Gov. Reynolds should protect our health and her own political future by ordering us to stay at home until this storm clears.

Do no harm

The legislative session has been suspended since mid-March, after a 2.3% increase in the K-12 education budget was approved. Legislators hope to return this summer, maybe as soon as June, to pass a budget and adjourn. Meantime, the Sioux City Journal reports that Republican legislative leaders are not certain that 2.3% increase for schools will hold, and that a tax relief bill may still be on the table.

Legislators, do no harm. Do not raise or cut taxes. Do not delve into social wedge issues. Stick to your promise to schools. The federal government already appropriated $1.35 billion for Iowa. We will know how badly the state budget is hurt after June. The legislature can correct any fiscal problems early in the next session with a special appropriation. Or, a later special session could be arranged. When the legislature gets together again, it should approve an as-is budget with the school increase allowed. There should be no tax changes or fiddling with mental health issues until the federal response is weighed against new budget projections. Tremendous damage could be done amid all this confusion if people get funny ideas.

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