While unmasked Iowa governor attends big political rally, COVID-19 has killed more Iowans in seven months than Alzheimer’s does in an entire year
Iowa has twice as many new coronavirus infections as the national average. This state is suffering “many preventable deaths” from COVID-19. When compared with other states, Iowa as a whole is considered a “red zone” for infections.
These are the facts, according to recent White House task force reports. On Wednesday, the state reported a record high daily death count of 31 people.
So what the heck is wrong with Iowa?
The governor refuses to issue a mask mandate, even though public health experts recommend face coverings. The White House task force has repeatedly called on the state to require them, but Reynolds won’t.
And she sure isn’t leading by example.
During a recent rally for Donald Trump, she wore no mask while mingling with others sitting close to each other, some of whom also didn’t wear masks. The event defied Reynolds’ own public health disaster proclamation about distancing at gatherings. It ignored task force guidance about masking and limiting the size of groups.
Yet there was Iowa’s governor, in the thick of the crowd, tossing Keep America Great hats to supporters and looking positively thrilled to be there — the same day this newspaper reported another 11 people with COVID-19 died in Iowa and an additional 1,180 new confirmed coronavirus cases.
Yes, cramming into a space with strangers is exercising one’s “right to peacefully gather,” as Reynolds felt compelled to suggest in defending the political rally.
But right now it is irresponsible. It is exactly the kind of situation that exacerbates spread of the virus and causes deaths.
Unfortunately, some Iowans seem to lack perspective on just how many people are dying from COVID-19.
Perhaps the best way to gain perspective is to compare the number of virus-related deaths to other causes of death. That is made possible by a recent vital statistics report published by the state that provides information about deaths in 2019.
We know that over the past seven months, COVID-19 has killed nearly 1,600 Iowans. To understand how large that number is, consider the following:
It is nearly twice the number who died from diabetes in all of 2019.
It is 16 times more than died directly of influenza.
It is three times more than died of pneumonia.
It is nearly three times the number of people who died by suicide.
It is more than four times the number who died from car accidents.
It is more than three times the number of people who died from breast cancer.
COVID-19 has killed more Iowans so far this year than were killed in all of 2019 by Alzheimer’s, a leading cause of death in this country.
Do those facts resonate with Reynolds? Do they resonate with people who aren’t wearing masks in grocery stores? What about those gathering in bars?
Everyone is tired of the disruption this virus has caused in our daily lives. We are all feeling pandemic fatigue.
But cavalier attitudes and actions are short-sighted and ultimately stifle economic activity. People aren’t comfortable going to restaurants, malls and movies when this state is a national hot spot for infections. The way to get the virus under control is to embrace masks and distancing.
That will be especially important as the weather turns colder and Iowans want to gather for the holidays.
Resist the temptation.
Maintain distance from others. Patronize businesses that offer contactless delivery of goods. If you gather, put on a coat, do it outdoors and stay several feet away from others. Wear masks. Work from home if you can. Choose virtual learning if possible. Vote remotely. Don’t attend large political rallies.
Doing these things is critical to keeping ourselves and our loved ones alive for future holidays.
Keep yourself safe.
Because Iowa is not a safe place to be right now.
This virus is killing not only frail Iowans in nursing homes
Some people seem to find a bizarre comfort in the fact that many of the Iowans who have died from COVID-19 were nursing home residents. The victims were already fragile and struggling, the thinking goes. They were perhaps nearing death anyway.
Yet if not for this virus, many might still be alive today.
And it’s worth remembering that the other half of Iowans who have died were not living in nursing homes. This other half includes younger and middle-age people who were previously healthy.
About one-third of Americans have at least one pre-existing health condition, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and asthma. Many of these conditions make people more vulnerable to complications and death from COVID-19.
So let’s do what the White House task force recommends: “mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings in private to stop the increasing spread among residents.”