In a video released on May 4, Miller-Meeks highlighted her medical background and advocated for vaccines as a way of “getting our lives back to normal,” while acknowledging that getting a shot “is your decision to make.”
She was less tolerant of personal choices when approached the next day by a journalist seeking an interview.
Political reporter Zachary Oren Smith was covering a Johnson County Republican fundraiser for the Iowa City Press-Citizen on May 5. The event brought out prominent GOP politicians from around southeast Iowa and featured former acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker, a possible future candidate for U.S. Senate
Oren Smith tweeted that he tried to ask Miller-Meeks some questions near the end of the evening, but was unsuccessful.
As a doctor, Miller-Meeks should be aware that a vaccinated person may have many reasons to continue wearing a mask. She can’t be certain Oren Smith isn’t immunocompromised and doesn’t regularly interact with an immunocompromised person. Given recent polling on vaccine hesitancy among Iowa Republicans, there were probably quite a few unvaccinated people at the Johnson County GOP event.
In addition, it’s not yet clear whether vaccinated people could be asymptomatic spreaders of COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks in indoor public spaces.
Furthermore, Johnson County still requires face coverings in public places, and an employee at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center in Coralville (where the GOP event was held) confirmed by phone that the hotel enforces the county’s masking regulation.
Staff for Miller-Meeks did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiry on May 6, so I don’t know whether refusing interviews with reporters wearing masks will be standard practice for the member of Congress going forward.
If Miller-Meeks respects people’s right to decide whether to get vaccinated, she should also respect their right to determine when they are ready to be in public with their faces uncovered.
Top image: Screenshot from Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ video encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations.