A number of Iowa churches made a hard call this week, deciding to keep their doors closed on Sunday morning despite the governor’s announcement services could proceed.
This couldn’t have been an easy decision. Fellowship is a key element for many congregations. The comfort and reassurance created by meeting together is not something lightly set aside.
There’s an important lesson in that decision, though, both for members of those churches and those who are not. Permission to gather is different from being required to do so. The ultimate decision on whether to stay home, on whether to avoid crowds and limit exposure to this virus, belongs to the individual.
At least it does for social gatherings. The state has warned people that refusing to report back to work when businesses reopen will be considered voluntarily quitting the job. In most cases that would mean a loss of unemployment benefits.
The exceptions to the announcement by Iowa Workforce Development are if the employee or a member of the employee’s household has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, does not have child care or transportation, or has had medical complications from COVID-19 that prevent the employee from performing essential duties.
Most of those are self-explanatory. There’s sure to be some debate over the last point, though. Some people take substantially longer to recover from the virus than others, even without needing hospitalization, and drawing a bright line on returning to work is going to be difficult at best.
We still have concerns about the information Gov. Kim Reynolds is relying on to make these decisions. She has repeatedly said the reopenings are taking place in areas where there is little or no virus activity. The state’s own numbers make that difficult to assess.
Until Wednesday, Davis County would have fallen in the “no activity” category. Only one case has been confirmed, keeping it firmly within the “little activity” metric. But only 44 people had been tested as of Wednesday, out of a population of about 8,700. It’s fair to question whether you can develop an accurate picture of how widespread the virus is when only 0.5 percent of the people have been tested.
Similar questions exist to a greater or lesser degree throughout the area. State figures showed Wapello County had 269 people tested as of Wednesday. It’s the highest number of tests locally by a fair margin, but is still only seven-tenths of a percent of the population.
While Reynolds’ decision can be questioned, we also have considerable sympathy for the position she is in. There are few, if any, answers that will please everyone. Any action risks serious consequences. And she deserves credit for standing before Iowans at 11 a.m. each weekday, fielding questions herself when other governors have failed to do so.
To the degree it is possible, we encourage all area residents to use good sense. Look at the information available from experts. Follow their recommendations. The message from the beginning remains clear: wash your hands, cover your coughs, and stay home if you’re sick.
You have to be informed to make the best decisions you can. And remember, no one has greater control over your decisions than you do.