DES MOINES, Iowa – During a press briefing with Gov. Kim Reynolds and legislative leaders, Reynolds said that she believes the egislature should wait until courts have ruled on the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates before passing any related legislation.
“I think we need to wait and that’s key. I’ve had a lot of businesses that are very concerned and anxious reach out to me. The Supreme Court will be hearing the OSHA ruling on January 7. And so you know, I look for them and would anticipate that they would put forward their ruling in a timely manner. They understand the confusion that this is calling with a back and forth in the courts,” she said.
Reynolds criticized the “mixed messaging” coming out of the Biden administration that has confused Iowa’s employers.
“People don’t know what’s right and what’s not whether to wear cloth mask, not to wear a cloth mask, whether to go back after five days, whether to go back after ten days, can they have access to testing?” she explained. “In the middle of all of this, we’re experiencing a workforce crisis, supply chain supply chain disruptions, and inflation that is skyrocketing higher than it’s been in 40 years. So we need to bring some certainty. And we need to bring some consistency to how we handle COVID.”
Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, agreed with Reynolds stating that the legislature should wait for the courts to rule but be ready to act.
“I think that the legislature already took strong action,” Grassley noted, pointing to the bill addressing religious and medical exemptions that passed during the special session last fall.
“I also think that the legislature shouldn’t try to get in front and complicate court cases that we’re seeing work through the process. But if we need to step in, I think the legislature should stand ready,” he added.
Grassley criticized Biden’s vaccine mandate during the workforce shortage.
“If you look at what we’re seeing from federal federal policy, look at the 100 person mandate. You go talk to employers and talk to employees. That’s just one more reason not to enter the workforce. You look at some of the mandates coming from the federal government not having to pay rent not having to pay your student loans. We are unable to disenroll folks from Medicaid in the state. So when we talk about a shortage in workforce, it’s not as simple as just saying we have a shortage of workforce,” he stated.
Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, indicated that unvaccinated Iowans have contributed to the workforce shortage.
“I would say that another thing that’s keeping people out of the workforce is unvaccinated people who can’t go to work because they’re in the hospital,” she said.
“And we have 83 percent of those who are in the hospital today (due to COVID-19) are unvaccinated Iowans, we need to spend our energy focusing on getting Iowans to get the vaccine that has been proven safe and effective. And we need to make sure that we can get out of this pandemic and science has proven that the best way to do that is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. So that’s really where our energy and focus should be if we want to get on the other side of this.”
As of Tuesday, there were 768 Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19, and 163 were in the ICU; 220 of those patients were admitted for a different reason, and COVID-19 was a secondary diagnosis. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, 83.5 percent of those in the ICU have not been vaccinated, and 79.9 percent of those hospitalized with the coronavirus are not fully vaccinated.
However, over 70 percent of Iowans over 18-years-of-age are fully vaccinated.
December saw a peak of 843 hospitalizations, the most hospitalizations the state has seen since December 2020, but still significantly lower than the November 2020 peak of 1510 hospitalizations.
Reynolds said that the administration encourages Iowans to be vaccinated, and they have promoted that through PSAs. For example, lt. Governor Adam Gregg wanted to encourage men to be vaccinated. He publicly received his first dose with former Iowa Hawkeyes and NFL tight end Dallas Clark and then received a second dose at an Iowa Barnstormers game. He recently received his booster dose at the Hy-Vee in Grimes.
Outside of the PSAs and her administration’s encouragement, Reynolds affirmed that it was an individual’s choice whether to be vaccinated or not. She said that the Biden administration’s “mixed messaging” has not been helpful in that effort.
“Mandates don’t work, it digs people in just the messaging back and forth, but we’ve continued to say that it’s the best thing that we can do to address COVID-19,” she said.