Delta variant calls for no response from reckless Iowa leaders

Only three at a time in a parking garage elevator. Three steps apart on the escalator. And to see an opera performance from the Des Moines metro, proof of vaccination in advance – with a mask.

I went to the opera, and as tempting as it might be to feel annoyed with the embarrassment, the relief was beyond that. It meant that someone cared about our collective security.

Yes, these restored restrictions are infuriating, frustrating and confusing. They muddy the waters and spark new fears about everything from sending kids out of school to self-isolating if you’re immunocompromised. They’re back after you’ve (hopefully) been tested and vaccinated, masked, kept your distance from friends, which sometimes meant missing family Christmas, vacations, weddings – even funerals. Some who felt unwell stayed home as instructed, even though it meant lost wages.

Gallery seats are taped to encourage social distancing on August 26, 2020 at the Polk County Criminal Court building in Des Moines.  Most COVID-19 mitigation measures are no longer in place.

This time, however, no one who chose not to be vaccinated cannot blame Wuhan or the Asians or even the delta variant. This time, you can blame Donald Trump for playing down the coronavirus, and the governors of Iowa, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Idaho and Wyoming for opposing the government mask or to other mandates.

Governor Kim Reynolds has made the requirement for masks illegal in schools, although the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends such requirements.

The CDC even advises those vaccinated to wear masks indoors during public events in areas that have experienced significant transmission. (In Iowa, that’s about half of the counties.) But Reynolds called the new advice “not based on reality or common sense.”

Vaccines are scarce elsewhere because we ignore the pleas

Members of the public heard from these “leaders” and chose not to be vaccinated. Elsewhere in the world, meanwhile, people have been crying out for access to the vaccines we have. Last week a young Vietnamese father who works in an auto body shop told me how bad it has become in parts of Asia, where they cannot get enough vaccines.

Here in Polk County, we went from moderate to high spread within a week, and Iowa became one of 40 states in which hospitalizations have doubled. In UnityPoint healthcare system alone, 90% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 had not been vaccinated. Polk County’s vaccination rate is below the threshold required for community immunity.

“If you don’t get the shot you will get COVID,” Polk County Health Department director Helen Eddy told television. “The only question is how sick are you going to get.”

Greg Woolever takes care to mask himself even outdoors

So consider being summoned to a state or county building where precautions are not in place. On July 26, Ankeny’s Greg Woolever appeared for jury duty at the Polk County Courthouse. Almost 74 years old, retired and asthmatic, he was wary of the risks but he took comfort in watching a video beforehand on the website of the state courts. Reported by former KCCI presenter Kevin Cooney, who Woolever trusts, he said jurors, judges and lawyers would be required to keep 6 feet distances and wear face shields.

Social distancing, face covers nowhere to be found

But Woolever found none of these measures in place when he showed up at the Polk County courthouse: no signs requiring masks, no verbal orders to wear them, no health information among the literature on Table. Nothing on vaccinations or social distancing. Indeed, the seats where sat a hundred candidate jurors while waiting to be called were side by side. He estimated that more than 90% of those seated were not masked during the 6.5 hours he was there.

“For most of the day I was next to a non-masked woman (I kept my mask on all the time),” Woolever sent me. When she got up to enter after four hours, she told him she was not vaccinated but thought she was immune because she thought she had COVID (without testing) last fall. She was worried that getting the vaccine would trigger hives, which is a problem for her, he said.

“Considering the recent wave of delta infections, with even ‘revolutionary’ infections of vaccinated people, I was in no mood for flippant or neglectful behavior in this public gathering of strangers,” told me. writes Woolever.

Unlike the courthouse, when Woolever took a shuttle there from the Center Street bus station in the morning, the driver made masks available and told passengers to wear them.

That night, Woolever learned that the CDC had updated its recommendations to resume wearing the indoor mask even with the vaccination. What he did not know until after our interview this week was that on June 17 the Iowa Supreme Court, under the signature of Chief Justice Susan Christensen, quashed three orders requiring measures of court security. The new order removes most face covering and physical distancing requirements for fully vaccinated people. Unvaccinated people can request physical distancing in a courtroom, but it is up to the judge whether or not to require physical distancing for the unvaccinated.

Steve Davis, spokesperson for the Iowa Judicial Branch, said Cooney’s video has since been removed from the courts website in response to the new order. He also said signs outside the Polk County Courthouse, a county-owned building, read that “Polk County recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask.” Inside jurors ‘meeting rooms and clerks’ windows, there are signs that the unvaccinated must wear masks, he said.

When asked if the new order was being reviewed in light of escalating COVID infections, he did not know. Davis was also unsure whether Christensen had contacted Reynolds before rescinding the orders.

“Something is seriously wrong right now”

“The legal obligations created by a subpoena should not put me in physical danger of a global pandemic,” he wrote. “Something is seriously wrong right now. “

Yes, something is.

You can choose not to attend the Iowa State Fair, which also won’t require masks or limited capacity. You can’t just not show up for jury duty, although a website where potential jurors can respond to summons says those concerned about the pandemic can apply to serve later. Something is seriously wrong though as Polk County’s top health official urges vaccinations, the state health department remains silent. And the Iowa Supreme Court, the state’s ultimate arbiter of justice, agrees to order the unvaccinated to keep their distance.

If this angers you, as it should, contact the Iowa Judicial Branch and let it be known.


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Joseph D. Whitman

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