Across the country, state governments have steadily ramped up their orders restricting the movement of people in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Thursday, according to USA Today, at least 38 states had put in place some form of "stay at home order." As of this writing Friday afternoon, Iowa was not one of them.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has rejected such an order at this time, even as she has urged Iowans to limit their contact with one another. She and public health officials say they are constantly monitoring several metrics. And already she has ordered such steps as closing indoor service at bars and restaurants and limiting social and other gatherings of 10 or more people, among other steps. On Thursday, she extended the public health emergency until April 30, which includes the closure of all state schools.
Still, there is a growing chorus of Iowans who are calling on the governor to do more; to do what most other states, including Illinois, have done and issue a "stay at home" order.
Reynolds has argued what she's done is much the same as other states that have put these orders in place, and that such an order could affect the supply chain.
How our public leaders communicate the need to stay home and limit their contact with others matters. To her credit, the governor has said the state’s residents should not go out except for essential trips. But there is no doubt a mandatory order from the state telling people to shelter in their homes would have an additional impact.
Late this week, the governor and her advisers provided a more detailed look at the metrics they're using and where each region stands on a 12-point scale, with 10 points being the threshold at which a "shelter in place" step would be triggered.
As of Thursday, the region that included the Iowa Quad-Cities was at a 7.
The metrics they're considering include the percentage of COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization, the rate of infection over the previous 14 days, the percentage of the state’s population over 65, and the number of outbreaks at long-term care facilities.
We understand the governor's approach, and we respect that she is urging people to fight the spread of this virus. But as a border community, we also have had an opportunity to see how her approach looks different from that of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Pritzker issued a stay at home order two weeks ago. On Thursday, he launched a promotional campaign to reinforce the message.
We can't say that one approach is leading to less interaction than the other. But there is a difference in the message that is being conveyed. In Illinois, there is a mandate that people stay home except for certain essential activities. In Iowa, there is no such order.
This comes as recent death toll estimates have rattled the public. A report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research center at the University of Washington’s medical school, estimated this week that 1,367 Iowans will die from the virus by August 4. And that was up from the day before. The institute noted that Iowa had no stay at home order in place. The governor said this week the institute’s study is flawed — and it is true its web page suggested Iowa hadn’t closed schools or non-essential businesses, which we know not to be the case.
Still, this estimate (which come from a study the White House has cited) is frightening to a lot of Iowans.
We think the governor and her advisers took a good step this week to shed more light on what information they are using and how it is guiding their mitigation strategies.
Still, there are questions. Among ours: Why were these specific measures picked? What other metrics were considered, and if they were rejected, why?
We think the governor and her staff would be wise to continue explaining this decision, and in more detail. It is clear to us that, from the feedback we are getting and in news reports, many Iowans believe she is making the wrong choice. We have our own concerns.
We do know this: On this question, Gov. Reynolds is in a lonely spot.
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