Des Moines Register. October 25, 2020

What is wrong with Iowa? Virus spread should not be twice the U.S. average.

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.”


Quad-City Times. October 24, 2020

Making voting safer

A few days ago, a federal judge in Sioux City tossed out a request for a temporary restraining order to stop Scott and Black Hawk counties from using a grant from a non-profit to help make this year’s elections safer and more accessible.

The request, which was filed by a conservative law firm on behalf of Diane Holst, a former Republican Scott County supervisor and two other people, along with the Iowa Voter Alliance, claimed the private grants were targeted at progressive areas and violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

The suit is similar to actions taken in other swing states in this year’s elections, all with the aim of stopping election officials from using this money. (Those attempts, too, have been largely unsuccessful.)

Frankly, we applaud Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz for taking the initiative to secure a grant for Scott County. The same goes for Grant Veeder in Black Hawk County. And to the 60-some other counties in Iowa who, according to the non profit — the Center for Tech and Civic Life — also have been awarded grants.

As we all know, this has been a tumultuous year. The pandemic has turned life upside down; yet, through it all, Americans are being asked to elect a president, member of Congress and officials for countless state and local offices. And amid this pandemic, election officials are being tasked with administering elections like never before.

In fact, the defendants in the suit claimed that without the grants “there are legitimate, serious health risks that will face poll workers and numerous members of the voting public who will be in close proximity to one another on Election Day.”

Election officials are taking numerous steps to minimize these risks and still ensure that people can vote as easily as possible, moves that have piled on additional and unexpected costs. Election officials seeking innovative ways of defraying that cost should be applauded for this, not sued.

The grants are helping achieve this mission. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have devoted $400 million to help with local elections. That included $250 million for the Center for Tech and Civic Life, or CCTL.

The plaintiffs claimed the grants were targeted at progressive areas, but when confronted in the hearing last week with the non-profit’s argument that, in fact, 64 counties in Iowa received grants, the plaintiff’s lawyer said he had no reason to doubt it. Still, the lawsuit wasn’t targeted at all the counties, just Scott and Black Hawk counties, two places with some of the largest concentrations of Democrats in the state.

In fact, the non-profit says that hundreds of other jurisdictions have received grants.

In a recent Facebook post, Zuckerberg said the majority of applications come from places with fewer than 25,000 registered voters. He said claims of a partisan agenda are false, and that he believes government should have provided adequate funding, but since it didn’t “it’s critical that this urgent need is met.”

We’re happy that U.S. District Judge Leonard Strand denied the motion to block the grants to Scott and Black Hawk counties. He said he found no constitutional or legal prohibition against using the private funding. In fact, he wrote, “the public stands to be harmed significantly more by prohibiting defendants from using the CTCL grants than by allowing their use.”

We agree.

From what we’ve seen, there is no evidence this money comes with strings, nor that it is being spent to advantage one side or the other. In fact, insofar as Iowa is concerned, the grants are being spread far and wide.

We have written in this space how there have been too many attempts this year to make it harder for people to vote, or to make it more difficult to run elections amid the pandemic.

Unfortunately, it’s become a pattern.

In our corner of this country, though, we are grateful that dedicated public servants are doing their best to ensure that people can vote safely — whether they do it in-person or by absentee ballot.

We’re grateful, too, that election officials are seeking ways to deal with the new challenges and trying to limit the expense borne by the taxpayer. These public servants were successful in federal court last week, but the ultimate winner was the public.


Fort Dodge Messenger. October 21, 2020

Keep the buses rolling safely

This is National School Bus Safety Week

Riding the big yellow bus is an essential part of the school day for thousands of local children.

Those school buses do more than take kids to and from class. They are also the transportation to field trips, sports events and other activities.

With so many buses on the road carrying students from pre-school to seniors in high school, safety is of paramount importance. That’s why the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa State Patrol have stringent standards for school buses. But the rest of us on the road also have some responsibility for keeping the kids on those buses safe.

That’s why a group of school transportation agencies sponsors National School Bus Safety Week every year. We are now in the middle of the 2020 version of that week, which ends Friday.

The theme of this week is Red Lights Mean Stop.

Obviously, red lights on a traffic signal mean stop. But the flashing red lights on a school bus mean stop also. To make the point even more obvious, school buses also have a stop sign on them that displays whenever the bus door opens.

Stopping all the nearby traffic helps to protect the youths around a school bus whenever it stops to pick up or drop off students.

Those who ride the buses also must take steps to protect themselves. Looking both ways before crossing any street is a good basic practice. Children should also be taught to never try to pick up anything dropped near or under the bus.

Safety around school buses is largely a matter of common sense, but it’s common sense that saves lives.

We urge everyone to follow safety precautions around school buses.