Iowa Governor Defends Not Ordering Shelter-in-Place: Maybe Dr. Fauci 'Doesn't Have All the Information'

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds defended her decision not to order a shelter-in-place for state residents amid the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that perhaps federal health care officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci "can't just look at a map" and make such demands.

The Republican governor responded to a local reporter's question Friday evening about why Iowa is one of just five states that do not have a shelter-in-place lockdown in effect. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told CNN hours earlier he doesn't understand why stay-at-home recommendations are not being implemented by every governor across the country. Reynolds responded by saying Fauci and other Coronavirus Task Force officials are potentially unaware of the numerous restrictions state leaders are enforcing on-the-ground in Iowa and elsewhere.

"Dr. Fauci says that every state at this point should have a shelter-in-place. So what is your response to him?" a reporter asked Reynolds at a Johnston, Iowa press conference Friday.

"Maybe [Dr. Fauci] doesn't have all the information," the GOP governor replied. "You can't just look at a map and assume that no action has been taken. That is completely false."

"I would say to [Fauci], does he recognize that we have closed down schools?" Reynolds continued. "Is he aware of the various businesses that have been closed, the restaurants and bars that have been closed through April 30. We have implemented no social gatherings of more than 10 people. That we have added additional closures to the orders that I have put in place based on data and metrics that we daily look at and move forward."

Reynolds expressed concern at the mental health of people isolating themselves in coronavirus quarantine, saying the risks of domestic abuse and suicide are among the "downsides" of a "connected community" being tasked with self-quarantine.

"We know that this has a significant impact on Iowans, when we ask them to really be responsible and stay home as much as possible," Reynolds said. "All of that takes a toll on everyone. We love our families, but at some point it's hard. And so all of these decisions can have an underlying effect on Iowans, and so we have to also manage that. That's why we encourage people to get outdoors, get in your car and go for a drive. Just don't gather."

The governor on Friday announced 85 new positive COVID-19 cases in the state, bringing Iowa's total to 699 confirmed cases and 11 deaths tied coronavirus. Iowa joins North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Arkansas as the five states that currently have no official shelter-in-place orders. Additional states including Wyoming, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Alabama and South Carolina all have at least one urban area or city under shelter-in-place orders. But those seven states - all of which have Republican governors in office - are not under state-wide stay-at-home orders.

The Iowa governor's office did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for additional comments Saturday morning.

The Des Moines Register newspaper reported Friday that bookstores and flower shops across Iowa were ordered closed, but adult toy shops were still allowed to remain open as essential businesses.

Reynolds continued her defense of not implementing shelter-in-place orders by comparing Iowa to other state actions: "Even those states that have implemented shelter-in-place orders have kept the majority of their businesses open similar to our orders. As we continue to evaluate our data and make the recommendations through the Department of Public Health and the CDC, if additional action is necessary to protect the health and safety of Iowans, I will do so. But again it will be based on data metrics that are provided to me by the experts by the department of public health."

The Iowa Board of Medicine on Friday urged the governor to issue a shelter-in-place order after unanimously voting to send her a letter laying out the health care benefits of doing so, KTIV-TV reported.

Iowans and critics of Reynolds took to social media Saturday to blast the Republican governor for allowing businesses to stay open. One person tweeted: "If my Son with bad lungs dies from COVID19 I am going to sue the State of Iowa. His employer has not closed. They offered him hand sanitizer. Only Essential business should be open. I can not replace my Son and you are putting him at risk."

iowa republican governor kim reynolds
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds defended her decision not to order a shelter-in-place for state residents amid the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that perhaps federal health care officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci "can't just look at a map" and make such demands. Screenshot: Iowa | YouTube