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Editorial: Time to shut Iowa, Nebraska down — Reynolds and Ricketts should issue stay-at-home orders for their states to stem the growing spread of COVID-19

Editorial: Time to shut Iowa, Nebraska down — Reynolds and Ricketts should issue stay-at-home orders for their states to stem the growing spread of COVID-19

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With increasing pressure from medical experts and politicians mounting, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has remained firm in her decision not to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.

Reynolds continues to insist that data shows the move isn’t needed in Iowa even though she has imposed other restrictions to slow the coronavirus.

State public health officials reported Thursday that there were 66 new cases of COVID-19 in Iowa, the disease caused by the virus. Thursday’s additions brought the state’s total count to 614, with 11 deaths, including two new ones since the totals were released on Wednesday.

One of the most outspoken critics of Iowa’s approach to fighting the outbreak has been Eli Percenevich, an epidemiologist and physicians who oversees a group of researchers studying infection prevention at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

He has called on Reynolds to issue a shelter-in-place order, saying many Iowans aren’t getting the message that they need to stay home.

“Many citizens are hearing (Reynolds’ assertions that a stay-at-home order is not needed) as if they don’t need to shelter at home and maybe only certain people do like older people,” Percenevich told The Associated Press. “The messaging really needs to improve. Until all of us take this seriously it’s going to be a longer process for use to come out of our current social distancing interventions.”

The Des Moines Register reported that Reynolds’ system for determining when to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order or other restrictions is based on a 12-point scale that weighs age, hospitalization, population and long-term outbreaks.

Each category has a maximum of three points. The proportion of cases requiring hospitalization, for example, must reach 15% before the maximum points are assessed in that category.

A shelter-in-place order would require Iowa reach at least 10 points.

To date, the governors of 38 states have issued shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, considered to be among the strictest directives to keep people home. Along with Iowa, Nebraska, our neighbor to the west, North Dakota and Arkansas have yet to issue such orders.

Reynolds, saying she want to use data-specific metrics to make the decision to avoid additional undue hardships, has resisted calls to issue such an order.

“By the time you are waiting for specific disease metrics that are not targeting exponential spread, you are many weeks behind the virus,” Percenevich said. “You are intervening too late.”

He pointed out Reynolds’ metrics weighs heavily on crisis moments such as outbreaks within long-term care facilities or for hospitalization percentages to climb rather than measures of infection across the population.

We think the time has long come for both Reynolds and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts to issue statewide stay-at-home directives rather than hoping less stringent measures will allow the residents of their states to weather the COVID-19 storm with minimal impact.

Reynolds has said not once, but repeatedly, “I can’t lock the state down.”

As the death toll continues to increase, we point out that Reynolds in fact CAN lock the state down. And both she and Ricketts should — now, before it’s too late.

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