IOWA — On Wednesday, Governor Kim Reynolds defended her decision to quietly lift statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts last week, arguing that the statistics show Iowa is turning the corner in the fight against the virus and that the rules are unnecessary.

On Wednesday the number of Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped below 300 patients for the first time since last September. The state’s average positive rate for the last 14 days continues to steadily drop as well, as has the number of long term care outbreaks in the state. The governor says all of those metrics and more show now is the time to lift restrictions.

Last week the Governor lifted an indoor mask mandate and limits on crowds, spectators and diners. The changes were announced via e-mail late last Friday afternoon, coming as a surprise to many. Governor Reynolds availed herself to FOX News’ ‘Hannity’ on Monday to discuss her decision. On Wednesday, at her weekly news conference, she spoke with Iowa media for the first time about the major changes.

Despite lifting the mandates, the Governor said she doesn’t want to send a signal that Iowans should relax their own efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Governor Reynolds encouraged Iowans to continue to wear masks, though she has publicly doubted science that shows masks are effective. “I trust Iowans to do the right thing,” Reynolds said on Wednesday.

Reynolds was pressed at her weekly news conference on Wednesday about the timing of her announcement last week. Governor Reynolds had held a press conference last Thursday morning and made no mention of the pending changes that would be announced the next day. Reynolds said on Wednesday that she was “focused on the vaccine at that point” in time last week. Her press conference on February 5th last for approximately 32 minutes. Twenty of those 32 minutes were used by the Governor and three guests to discuss the ‘Governor’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board’ and legislative priorities the group of Iowa business leaders have identified.

Governor Reynolds re-confirmed a promise from the Biden Administration to increase the number of doses of COVID-19 vaccine being distributed to the states. Reynolds says Iowa expects a 5% increase in its next allotment which could arrive by the end of this week, according to a spokesperson.

The state of Iowa could have a new tool for helping Iowans more easily schedule an appointment to be vaccinated. Microsoft was chosen this week to develop a vaccination scheduling tool for COVID-19 vaccines. The Governor says that tool could be ready as soon as two weeks from now.