It has been about three-and-a-half years since the height of the COVID pandemic here in Iowa. While Iowa wasn’t as restrictive as most other states, it is inaccurate to claim Iowa “stayed open.”
It seems history is attempting to be rewritten by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. To be clear, Reynolds was much better than most governors, but the standard for respecting constitutional rights probably shouldn’t “be better than most governors.”
This post in late July from Gov. Reynolds raised my ire a bit:
“When the rest of the country shut businesses down, Iowa stayed open!” it proclaimed.
But I lived in Iowa during the pandemic. There was a lot going on in March of 2020, but I was certain Iowa shut down. And I was right.
Here is a timeline of how things happened in Iowa:
March 15, 2020: Reynolds recommended Iowa schools close for four weeks.
March 17, 2020: Reynolds issued a state of public health disaster of emergency. This proclamation shut down bars and restaurants, fitness centers, theaters, casinos and gaming facilities, senior citizen centers, adult daycare facilities and any gathering or event where more than 10 people would be — including “spiritual, religious” gatherings.
On March 22, 2020: Reynolds signed a new proclamation continuing the State Public Health Emergency Declaration to include the closure of salons, medical spas, barbershops, tattoo establishments, tanning facilities, massage therapy establishments and swimming pools.
On March 26, 2020: Reynolds signed a proclamation continuing the emergency declaration, suspending elective and nonessential medical and dental procedures while extending and expanding retail business closures.
On April 2, 2020: Reynolds signed a new proclamation which included the order to close schools.
On April 16, 2020: Reynolds signed a new public health emergency declaration that increased restrictions in northeast Iowa. Those Iowans in northeast Iowa were limited to gathering ONLY with the people they lived with. And the proclamation continued to limit weddings, funerals and other spiritual or religious gatherings to no more than 10 people.
That’s a month since the proclamation was first ordered, FYI.
On April 19, 2020: Reynolds announced all school districts and nonpublic schools would be closed for the rest of the school year.
An April 27, 2020 proclamation loosened social distancing measures in 77 Iowa counties effective May 1. In 77 counties, it allowed restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, racetracks and “certain other” retail establishments to reopen in limited fashion with public health measures in place.
So look, you may be thinking, why bring any of this up right now? The answer is simple — they’re trying to rewrite history. And those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to bet that Kim Reynolds will be our governor the next time such an “emergency” takes place.
I saw what happened in other states. I saw what happened under Democrat governors. I saw what happened under a fair number of Republican governors. I don’t want to risk it.
Was Gov. Reynolds “better than” most COVID-era governors? Yes.
But again, “better than” doesn’t give a green light to close down businesses and churches and funerals.
Iowa lawmakers promised to address the governor’s emergency powers. They failed in 2021. They failed in 2022. They failed in 2023.
As time passes, memories fade and — apparently — history is rewritten, I find it less likely lawmakers will reform the governor’s emergency powers.
Gov. Reynolds has done a lot of good things. But Iowans need to make sure one person never has the power again to order their churches and businesses closed.
I believe Gov. Reynolds should lead the charge on this. Nobody knows the unchecked power of the executive better than she does having been the executive during COVID.
She did better than most governors, we know. But she wasn’t perfect. Perfect didn’t exist in the midst of a pandemic. It’s fine.
But it shouldn’t happen again.