Iowa leads US in new virus cases after governor bragged about keeping state open

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Iowa now has the highest average daily cases per capita of any state.

In early May, Iowa's governor co-wrote an editorial bragging about her state's laissez-faire response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, her state leads the country for most new average new daily cases, per capita, according to data compiled by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Gov. Kim Reynolds was one of five Republican governors who authored a May 5 Washington Post opinion piece boasting, "Our states stayed open in the [COVID]-19 pandemic. Here's why our approach worked."

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"While our specific approaches may differ, we have all kept our states 'open for business' and delivered food and other goods Americans need during this pandemic," Reynolds and Govs. Mark Gordon of Wyoming, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, and Mark Parson of Missouri wrote. "Our collective experience ensures that our contribution toward reopening our nation's economy is stable, safe and durable. Restarting our economy is not a race to be won but a cooperative effort. Our approach has created a model for success that can be applied throughout the country."

All but Parson were among the seven governors who had refused to issue any statewide "stay-at-home" orders when the pandemic hit— ignoring the advice of Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who in April urged the entire nation to stay home to curb the coronavirus' spread.

Even around the time of the op-ed, Iowa's per capita case load of more than 433 infections per 100,000 residents ranked high nationally — higher than early hotspots like California and Virginia.

As things worsened in Iowa, Reynolds ignored federal guidelines and rushed to reopen her state's economy. "It's time," she announced at an April 24 news conference, pledging to do so it a "responsible and safe manner."

Cases continued to spike in the state as summer began. Still, Reynolds plowed ahead, demanding schools reopen with in-person instruction and refusing to issue a mask mandate.

According to the Times and Post analysis, Iowa is now the worst state in the country with a daily average of 37 new infections for every 100,000 people over the last week.

Iowa Starting Line reported on Monday that two major Iowa college towns — Ames and Iowa City — currently rank as the number one and number two worst coronavirus outbreaks in the entire country. Per capita, their rates were worse than any industrialized country, ranking them as two of the biggest hot spots in the world.

A Reynolds spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

"I'm extremely concerned. I think we should all be," Daniel Diekema, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine, told KIWA, a local radio station, on Monday. "I think we’re now in the unenviable position of being one of the global hotspots for COVID-19 spread."

He continued, "Although right now it seems mostly concentrated in the 18-to-24 year population, how soon before it begins to expand into other groups that are at higher risk for severe disease?"

To date, more than 64,000 Iowans have contracted the coronavirus — more than 2% of the state's population — and more than 1,100 have died.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.