Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has lifted mask and social distancing mandates in her state. Reynolds did not consult with public health officials before making this decision. Her decision may come as a surprise to some, given that Iowa is still seeing a positivity rate of 26.41%, the highest in the nation, as well as a slow vaccine rollout – only around 7.5% of the population has been vaccinated so far. In addition, the White House COVID Response Team said on Monday that, due to more contagious, and possibly more deadly, COVID variants, states should not ease up on restrictions.

When speaking about Reynolds’ decision-making process, State Sen. Liz Mathis (D) said, “We asked the Iowa Department of Public Health if they had input into the governor’s decision to lift the mask mandate on Friday and they said they had not. I just can’t understand why the governor would lift that when we still have such a low percentage of vaccinations completed.”

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky specifically asked states to keep masking rules in place. “We have yet to control this pandemic,” Walensky said. “We still have this emergent threat of variants and I would just simply discourage any of those activities. We really need to keep all of the mitigation measures at play here if we’re really going to get control of this pandemic.”

Pat Garrett, a spokesman for the governor, attempted to explain the choice in a statement: “The governor has been consistent since the beginning of the pandemic and is following through with her commitment to dial back restrictions based on a significant decrease in COVID hospitalizations.”

Last week, Reynolds claimed to be investigating Iowa’s low vaccination rate. However, she blamed the federal government for sending insufficient vaccine supplies, and she has neither set forth a plan to reduce Iowa’s infection rate nor to help vaccinate citizens more rapidly.

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