Iowa is running out of time to avoid the pain I'm living

Tanya Keith is an activist and small business owner in Des Moines. -promoted by Laura Belin

You may have heard yesterday that Adam Schlesinger, founding member of Fountains of Wayne, passed away from COVID-19 complications. Perhaps you liked their music, and will miss his talents. For me, his passing was a defining moment.

I grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, and I was friends with Adam’s sister. I’ve been to their family home, a warm and welcoming place where creativity thrived and flourished. For me, losing Adam was not limited to musically. It means I am sad for the loss of a friend’s sibling.

I read the memorials from our mutual middle school band director. I saw Adam’s yearbook photo on my hometown Facebook groups (along with the thirteen others Montclair had already lost as of yesterday). It means that when I heard of his passing, I sat down in the middle of my walk at Evelyn Davis Park in Des Moines and sobbed as people played basketball in groups of much larger than ten nearby.

I haven’t felt this isolated living in Iowa since 9/11, but I’m writing this in Adam’s memory, to urge action now, so I can stay alone in my suffering.

You don’t want this. You do not want the feeling of COVID-19 circling closer and closer to your personal life. You don’t want to live in the fear that you will not be able to hug your friends when their family members die, because you can’t travel, and even if you could, it isn’t safe to hug anyone outside your household.

You want to call Governor Kim Reynolds every single day until she finally hears our cries for the clearer communication of a shelter-at-home order, or you too will be living with the regret and loss of a massive outbreak.

To Governor Reynolds: I am furious with you. I am angry because I listen to your press conferences, but most people don’t. And I don’t know how much longer I can stand it. I’m tired of listening to you saying that Iowa parents need to do more to keep our kids home and then, almost in the next breath, saying you’re doing everything you can.

No, you are not. You are failing us. People need the clear leadership of a statewide shelter-at-home order to wake them up and make them take this seriously. This data from the New York Times proves your mitigation measures are not working. The methods you have implemented so far have only ever brought spread down to doubling every four days. This pandemic is still raging out of control throughout Iowa, but you cannot see it, because your metrics don’t account for the grossly negligent lack of testing.

There is only one metric in Iowa that matters now, because it is the only one we are “testing,” and that is death. With at least eleven Iowans dead because of coronavirus, we can extrapolate that there are between 11,000 and 110,000 cases in Iowa right now. Some cases are asymptomatic, but they are out there, spreading through horse auctions and stores. Through basketball courts and soccer fields.

By the metrics you are using, Iowa will be overrun with illness before you choose to give a stay home order with teeth. Your unwillingness to lead in this time of crisis will result in preventable deaths.

I beg you, in memory of my friend Adam, please do not wait another moment to issue an order for all Iowans to stay home unless they are engaged in essential work, and for Iowans to wear a mask to protect those around them from this deadly pathogen when they must go out for food shopping, medicine, or other essential business.

Please save my fellow Iowans from the sorrow my Jersey heart suffers tonight.

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