An open letter to Iowa Governor Reynolds on COVID-19

Why I respectfully disagree with the course of action taken by the governor of Iowa to combat the novel virus.

Relax your eyes and listen instead.

Originally published Apr 3, 2020

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Lessons from History

In 1918, St Louis enacted strict measures within 2 days of the first case.

Elevated Risks

High-risk Iowans include 525,000 older adults and 1,800,000 with chronic disease. Over 700,000 residents have two or more chronic diseases. Both factors increase the risk of serious illness and death.

Presymptomatic spread, incubation, & testing

The long incubation period means cases we find today were infected a week ago. There are likely many more cases in Iowa than those currently recognized.

Iowa COVID-19 Case Counts Exponentially Rising

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Johns Hopkins University CSSE data for the state of Iowa

A Stay-at-home order by any other name

No suggestion equates to the preventative power of formal action. We are far from a vaccine with no powerful therapeutics. Containment is essential.

“If you don’t have that consistent approach, then you basically have a lowest-common-denominator approach, and whoever is making the weakest decisions puts everyone else at risk. You can see that with Florida.”

Managing an infectious agent like COVID-19 takes intentional, coordinated mitigation. Inaction will hurt us and it will hurt neighboring states. There are no good options anymore. The only proven tool requires “profound measures.” Even studying a variety of distancing styles, the data led them to their unchallenged conclusion.

“The effectiveness of any one intervention is likely to be limited, requiring multiple interventions to have a substantial impact on transmission.”

“Measures needed…will be profound. Even countries at an earlier stage…need to [act] imminently.”

Disadvantaged Iowans suffer without formal action

Analyses already show that wealthier Americans distanced themselves much sooner than their lower-income counterparts.

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Movement dropped among the wealthy much sooner than the poor.

One study already concluded that COVID-19 “affected vulnerable populations disproportionately across the world,” and “financial protection during an outbreak…ensured disease-control efforts reached…vulnerable people to contain the spread.”

Infectious diseases obey no borders nor societal status. The health of our community is inextricably linked by our shared environment. The President allowed states to discern the best course of action, but any benefit ceases without action.

  • local hospitals can treat all residents in need of care and healthcare workers are protected — protected and not instructed to stay silent.
  • the state has the ability to rapidly test all people with symptoms or exposure to COVID-19 at low or no cost to ensure people won’t avoid
  • ability to contact trace and contain identified cases

Please protect us.

With great respect from a fellow Iowan,
E. Rosalie Li Rodenborn | Graduate Student
Public Health Biology
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this letter reflect only me and are not affiliated with any other persons or institution.

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Public health biologist studying at Johns Hopkins | Science writer & artist | Views reflect me alone | Subscribe @

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