Pence calls Iowa ‘success story’ as virus-related deaths, hospitalizations climb

Source: By ERIN MURPHY, Quad City Times • Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday called Iowa a success story while the number of COVID-19-related deaths and hospitalizations in the state continue to climb to new highs.

Pence offered his assessment Wednesday during a meeting with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds at the White House.

The meeting also included President Donald Trump and U.S. agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue.

Iowa this week experienced its worst one- and two-day virus-related death totals (19 on Tuesday and a combined 31 on Tuesday and Wednesday), and hospitalizations continued to climb to a new one-day high of more than 400 on Wednesday.

Iowa’s per capita virus-related death rate is 24th in the country and its per capita rate of infection 15th, according to national public health data tracked by the New York Times.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday regarding the White House meeting.

“Meeting with @POTUS later today to discuss Iowa’s plans to reopen safely! The President and his team have been an outstanding partner in combatting the COVID19 pandemic,” Reynolds tweeted from her official gubernatorial account Wednesday morning.

During the meeting, Reynolds and administration officials discussed issues related to outbreaks at food processing plants in Iowa, according to pool reports.

There have been outbreaks confirmed at four processing plants in Iowa, resulting in nearly 1,600 confirmed cases of the virus. The state also has been impacted at similar outbreaks just across the state’s eastern and western borders.

Perdue said meat shortages created by the issues at processing plants should end within 10 days as more plants come back online.

“I think we’ve turned the corner,” Perdue said.

Pence, who also is scheduled to visit Iowa on Friday, said during Wednesday’s meeting that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials are dispatched to any food processing facility where an outbreak occurs in order to ensure safe conditions for workers.

“Our objective is two equal goals: No 1 is the safety and health of the workforce in our meat processing plants, and to ensure there’s strength in our food supply and getting people back to work,” Pence said.

Reynolds also highlighted Iowa’s expanded testing for the virus, driven largely by the $26 million TestIowa program, which is being conducted by a Utah-based private health care company. The state has more than doubled the number of daily tests reported since the program was implemented.

Reynolds said she planned to travel to the meeting via a private flight paid for from her campaign account.

Pence plans Friday to visit Des Moines, where he will meet with faith leaders to discuss how churches can safely conduct services, and to discuss the nation’s food supply in a roundtable discussion hosted by the Iowa-based grocer Hy-Vee.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, during his weekly conference call with Iowa reporters on Wednesday, said he hoped Reynolds discussed with the president myriad virus-related issues, including assistance for food processing plants, the ensured safety of workers there, and the virus’ impact on ethanol.

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, an Iowa Democrat, also expressed hope that Reynolds discussed the safety of Iowa’s food processing plant workers, as well as federal assistance for farmers and rural businesses and to boost Iowa’s testing capacity and help unemployed workers.

“All of the topics, while important on their own, have one overarching goal, which is get our communities ready to reopen and get the economy running once again,” Loebsack said in a news release. “If workers at meat packer plants aren’t healthy, they can’t work the processing lines; if farmers don’t have access to loans to keep their operations running, once the economy returns, those that closed may not be able to return. I have heard from folks across Iowa about how important these issues are to them. Without addressing these important topics, we cannot safely begin to reopen.”

The Republican Party of Iowa issued a statement praising Trump and Reynolds for “their swift and decisive response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” while the Iowa Democratic Party issued a statement accusing Reynolds of taking “a political victory lap” in the White House while the virus continues to spread back home.

Each of the 12 new virus-related deaths confirmed Wednesday was an adult who was at least 61 years old. The state also confirmed 293 new cases.

Virus-related hospitalizations across the state continue to climb to a new one-day high of 414, according to state public health data.