Gov. Reynolds defends law banning mask mandates; IDPH to release COVID-19 data more frequently

Iowa News

DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds held her first news conference dedicated to COVID-19 in months Thursday morning, ending the event by defending her law that bans mask mandates.

While no new actions were announced to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa, Gov. Reynolds continued to ask Iowans to get vaccinated, saying it’s the best defense against the virus.

The governor defended the law banning mask mandates in Iowa and again claimed that she isn’t convinced by scientists about the efficacy of masks. When reporters tried to ask Kelly Garcia, Head of Iowa’s Department of Public Health if she would recommend wearing masks, Gov. Reynolds answered instead.

“It doesn’t really matter because it’s a law at this point.  It is a law. It is a law that elected officials that are elected by Iowans and constituents across this state, listened to the people that they represent, passed a bill, sent it to my desk, and it was signed into law,” Reynolds responded before immediately leaving the room without further comment.

Earlier in the news conference, Gov. Reynolds asked Garcia to address the media to release how the Iowa Department of Public Health will offer more information about COVID-19 cases in the state and do it more frequently.

Garcia said the department has heard Iowans’ complaints about the lack of data on the latest surge in COVID-19 cases and it is responding.

“Today there is a clear interest we’re hearing from Iowans to know and understand more, and so we’re adjusting our public reporting. We recognize reporters who have told the story about our COVID response from the beginning, along with legislators, want more information —  but also business owners do, educators do, every day Iowans do. And so, we’re reformatting our COVID website to highlight the things we think make the most sense to focus on. This includes making hospitalization data more prominent. This also includes for the first time the associated vaccination status for those hospitalized,” said Garcia.

Since late June, the state has gone from 46 hospitalized COVID-19 patients to now over 500. Tracking that surge has been hard with numbers only coming out on a weekly basis.

With the IDPH’s change in reporting, timely information on the spread of the virus as well as more accurate vaccination information will be available. The department plans to update the state’s coronavirus website with new numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Gov. Reynolds acknowledged the nation’s reluctance to get a timely vaccine this spring likely means that COVID-19 isn’t going away and we’ll all just have to learn to live with it but said things are better for Iowans than they were a year ago.

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