Letter to the Editor

Iowa needs leadership at the top

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Iowa education officials fell in line with Governor Reynolds’ rush to end all COVID-19 restrictions in the state, even as it continues to devastate families river to river. The recently released parameters for schools to reopen and begin activities as normal takes effect starting July 1. They did so without requiring health checks for students and staff, any mask use, or the observation of social distancing.

By not implementing any sort of policy in terms of disease prevention, the monetary burden for masks and other PPE also falls on the districts that have been starved of funding for years. The time to believe people will be “Iowa Nice” and trusting them to do the right thing is over.

Action needs to be taken now to prevent a second wave that could be far more crippling than the first. Governor Reynolds and other state leaders must:

Listen to science and the experts. This is what the CDC and the WHO have gone to school for. If they have suggested guidance, use it. This includes mandatory mask use, social distancing, cleaning practices, etc… for all staff and students. While there are areas hit harder than others, and school size varies, guidelines can be put in place. This includes but is not limited to time between class, arrival/dismissal, classroom population, and transportation.

Fund/provide PPE for all staff and students to ensure minimum exposure. Masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, and cleaning wipes. If what is provided isn’t adequate and staff has to provide their own, it should be 100% tax deductible. If a family cannot afford/provide masks, disposable masks should be provided.

Set clear and visible guidelines for what should be done in the very real event that schools should close because of another outbreak. These should also be followed and not discarded when a minority believes that safety precautions are inconvenient. The guidelines should include disinfecting procedures, continuation of instruction, and criterion for return. In the event of a closure, all possible efforts will be made to provide rural and low income families with internet access to ensure open education for all. In the event a child is sick and has to quarantine for two weeks, a parent/guardian should receive unemployment benefits in line with what was provided this past spring. No family should have to decide between keeping a sick kid home and working to afford bills.

Iowa needs leadership at the top. It needs a clear voice that listens to reason and logic, not to a bank account. Instead, Iowans have received lukewarm statements to follow guidelines while Governor Reynolds ignores them at her convenience. Lives are at stake. The rate of infection has gone up. This is not sustainable. Other areas of the world have shown that following guidelines can limit the rate of infection. These guidelines include social distancing, mask use, and proper cleaning standards. This virus does not discriminate. Stopping it will be difficult. But there are measures that can be taken to slow it down significantly. After four months, it’s time to take it seriously. The health and safety of our community depends on it.

— Mitch Day, Spencer