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Reynolds Urges Iowans To Get Vaccinated; Declines To Recommend Masking In Schools

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a news conference about COVID-19 Thursday at the Iowa Capitol.
Katarina Sostaric
Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a news conference about COVID-19 Thursday at the Iowa Capitol.

Gov. Kim Reynolds is again encouraging Iowans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as infections and hospitalizations have been increasing in the state, but she’s not changing state policies or implementing mitigation measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Reynolds said Thursday the increasing infections and hospitalizations are not “cause for panic,” but she said they are a good reason to consider getting vaccinated. She said vaccines are safe and effective and are the best way to relieve stress on hospitals, which are currently stretched with COVID-19 patients and Iowans with other illnesses.

“I’ve been clear from the beginning that vaccination is easily the best tool that we have to counter the virus,” Reynolds said. “I chose to get vaccinated months ago. I would do it again. And I continue to urge Iowans to get vaccinated to protect themselves and those around them.”

COVID-19 hospitalizations reached 524 on Wednesday, up from 498 the week before and 396 two weeks ago. Hospitalizations haven’t been this high in Iowa since January, but they are still lower than last year’s peak of more than 1,500. Hospitalizations hit a low of 46 in June.

Reynolds also said kids should stay home from school if they’re sick. She said Iowans should seek coronavirus testing if they are sick and should stay home while waiting for test results.

Starting Friday, the state will update its coronavirus data website three times a week instead of once a week.

“I believe the government’s role in a public health crisis is to provide the public reliable information so that they can make their own informed decisions,” Reynolds said. “I also believe this approach is more effective than mandates that attempt to dictate other people’s behavior.”

Reynolds and Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia also declined to recommend mask wearing in schools. Last September, Reynolds was encouraging schools to require masks. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend all students wear masks in school.

Garcia was asked at a news conference Thursday if she recommends that students wear masks.

Reynolds answered the question herself.

“It doesn’t really matter because it’s law at this point,” Reynolds said. “It is a 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.”

Iowa has a law that bans mask mandates in schools. It does not ban recommending masks.

Garcia later told reporters she sends her kids to school in masks.

“I don’t want my kids to be sick,” Garcia said. “And…I can’t afford for them to bring that home with a breakthrough [infection]. Both my husband and I are vaccinated.”

Garcia stopped short of recommending masks for all kids in schools, saying there is a law on the books in Iowa and parents can make their own decisions.

Reynolds, a Republican, has defended the state’s law that bans schools from mandating masks as it becomes the focus of a federal civil rights investigation. She signed the law in the middle of the night in May, less than 24 hours after the legislation was introduced.

Democratic leaders in Iowa continue to criticize Reynolds’ handling of the pandemic and her signing of the law banning school mask mandates.

“Just stop telling Iowans what to do and let Iowans make their own decisions about the health and safety of their schoolchildren and their communities,” said Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville. “If we have learned anything about the fight against COVID-19, it’s that one-size-fits-all policies don’t work.”

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter