(The Center Square) – The Iowa State Board of Health, which is the Department of Public Health’s policy-making and advisory body, has lacked a quorum since July 1, which forced it to cancel its July 14 meeting. It has not met since May 12.
With its next meeting scheduled to take place Sept. 8, its role in advising the director of public health, governor and general assembly regarding public health and advocating “for the importance of public health standards for state and local public health” is unclear.
Gov. Kim Reynolds’ spokesman Pat Garrett told KCCI, “The governor makes appointments to boards and commissions as terms expire or when individuals vacate their position. She is actively reviewing applicants to several positions, including to the State Board of Health, which has met quorum requirements for every month in 2020 and from January to June of 2021.”
The 11-member board is missing seven members: two members of the public, three members “learned in the health-related disciplines,” and two members “who have direct experience with substance abuse treatment or prevention.”
The four current board members include Republicans Leone Junck, a member of the public; Michael Wolnerman, a pharmacist; and Dr. George Kovach, who does not list publicly his party affiliation. Their terms expire in 2022. Republican Kierstyn Borg Mickelson, a member of the public, serves through June 2023.
“I’m appalled that Iowa’s most important health policy board doesn’t have enough members to take action,” State Senator Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, said in an Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, blog. “This would be a problem anytime, but it is especially troubling during an ‘all hands of deck’ moment for Iowa health care. Governor Reynolds, do your job so the State Board of Health is able to function during the pandemic.”
Mathis announced July 27 on Twitter she is running for Iowa’s First Congressional District seat.
Public health policy issues include whether private businesses should mandate employees get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Seventeen legislators signed an open letter to Trinity Health dated July 21 asking “for clarification” regarding the health provider’s requiring “colleagues, clinical staff, contractors, and those conducting business in its health care facilities” to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or formally request exemption for religious or health reasons.
Informed Choice Iowa held a rally at the Iowa State Capitol on July 24 to protest private COVID-19 vaccination mandates. The grassroots organization has urged the public to call on Reynolds to ask for a special legislative session to “fix the shortsighted Vaccine Passport Bill and to protect Iowan’s right to LIFE.”
The Iowa State Board of Health normally meets seven or eight times annually at the Lucas State Office Building in Des Moines. Its next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 8.
Garrett, Iowa Department of Public Health spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand, and Iowa Department of Public Health Legislative Liaison and Policy Advisor Maddie Wilcox did not respond to The Center Square’s request for information by press time.