On COVID-19, governor is a day late and a dollar short—again

Jan Flora is Professor Emeritus at Iowa State University.

On January 9, new cases of COVID-19 reached an all-time high in Iowa. Governor Kim Reynolds may have known that when she gave her Condition of the State address two days later. By barely mentioning the pandemic, she attempted to relegate it to the past.

With the Omicron variant now dominant, COVID-19 cases were modeled to peak on January 15. Coronavirus-related hospitalizations are now near 1,000, the highest point since early December 2020. Iowa faces a grave hospitalization crisis that may not ease before March.

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Governor resumes public events; no word on follow-up test (updated)

Governor Kim Reynolds returned to the capitol on January 18, after canceling her public events on January 13 and 14. Announcing those cancellations, staff said in a statement that the governor “is not feeling well, but has tested negative for COVID-19.” Her spokesperson Alex Murphy did not respond to subsequent messages seeking to clarify whether Reynolds was tested again over the holiday weekend.

At least five individuals associated with the Iowa House or Senate have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, including Democratic State Senators Zach Wahls and Nate Boulton. (The legislature does not require lawmakers or staff to report coronavirus infections.) Reynolds, Wahls, and Boulton are all vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19.

The governor spent considerable time with her face uncovered around other unmasked people last week: at a crowded Iowa GOP breakfast on January 10, while delivering her Condition of the State address in the House chamber the following day, and while attending the Iowa Supreme Court chief justice’s report to lawmakers on January 12.

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Des Moines leaders abandoned houseless residents

Natalie Harwood: Most of the Des Moines City Council left our most vulnerable open to frostbite and death in the elements.

This week in Des Moines, temperatures are anticipated to plummet into the negatives. Despite this fact, and even in light of the freezing death of a Des Moines citizen last year outside of a closed warming center, the Des Moines City Council is refusing to act on opening a 24-hour emergency warming center. In doing this, they are condemning the most vulnerable people in our community to suffer in the frigid temperatures, or worse, and are in direct opposition to their own campaign promises.

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Kim Reynolds gave up trying to fight COVID-19

This week, Iowa’s COVID-19 hospitalizations reached levels not seen for more than a year. Even with 100 out-of-state nurses and respiratory therapists helping to manage the workload, the state’s major medical centers are being crushed. Hospital leaders, health care workers, and public health officials in the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, and central Iowa have been begging for weeks: “We are overwhelmed.” “We’re exhausted.” “We need your help.”

Against this backdrop, Governor Kim Reynolds has not made even a token effort to encourage Iowans to slow the spread of a virus that has killed more than 8,200 of her constituents, claiming more than 100 lives each week in recent months.

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Iowa extends nurses' contract as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge

As COVID-19 hospitalizations reach levels not seen in Iowa for more than a year, the state has extended a contract for 100 out-of-state nurses and respiratory therapists to alleviate staff shortages at major medical centers.

Iowa Department of Public Health spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand confirmed to Bleeding Heartland via email that the state has twice extended the six-week contract signed with Kansas company Favorite Healthcare Staffing in early December—first to run through January 28, and more recently to run through February 11.

Ekstrand added that the state recently accepted bids “to establish a statewide hospital bed transfer line. The goal is to establish a call center to help relieve pressure on hospital staff in order for them to be able to spend more time caring for ill patients.”

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Miller-Meeks fined for second mask violation in Congress

U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks has been fined again for not wearing a mask in the U.S. House chamber. A January 10 news release from the House Ethics Committee announced that Miller-Meeks did not appeal the fine within the allowed time period.

That statement did not confirm when the first-term Republican from Iowa’s second district broke the chamber’s rules on face coverings. The Office of the Sergeant at Arms notified the committee of the fine on November 30.

During part of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s eight-hour speech on November 18, intended to delay action on a Democratic spending bill, Miller-Meeks can be seen on camera, nodding and laughing with her face uncovered. She’s near the right side of the frame in this clip from a PBS News Hour video.

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