Petersen Schneider statehouse press conference

House Minority Leader Todd Prichard of Charles City addresses reporters at the Statehouse on Jan. 7, 2020,, with (from right) Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines, Senate President Charles Schneider, and House Speaker-select Pat Grassley. (Photo by Perry Beeman)

Democratic leaders in the Iowa House and Senate sent a letter Thursday to Gov. Kim Reynolds, asking her to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, and House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, wrote that current health recommendations from Reynolds “have so far not flattened the curve that is needed to save more lives.”

Reynolds has issued emergency orders closing some businesses, has recommended school closures and has asked Iowans to voluntarily stay home to help curb transmission of the highly contagious virus and avoid overwhelming the state’s health care system. But she has resisted following other governors in issuing a “shelter-in-place” or “stay-at-home” order, citing the need to keep essential workers on the job and supply lines moving.

“A statewide shelter-in-place sends a clearer message about the serious nature of this pandemic,” Petersen and Prichard wrote.  “The current patchwork of recommendations is confusing, raising more questions than answers about what Iowans should be doing to help save lives.”

The Democrats said their request comes “after hearing from Iowa medical professionals, watching Iowa’s confirmed cases increase by more than 450% since last week, hearing mounting complaints about the shortage of testing and medical equipment, and listening to the growing frustration of many Iowans about the lack of information on the state’s plans and capabilities for combatting this pandemic.”

The Legislature, which last met March 16, suspended its session until at least mid-April.

Here’s the complete text of the letter:

2 April 2020

The Honorable Kim Reynolds

The Iowa Capitol

Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Dear Governor Reynolds:

COVID-19 is threatening the health and safety of Iowans and the current health recommendations from your Administration have so far not flattened the curve that is needed to save more lives. We urge you to implement a statewide shelter-in-place order.

A statewide shelter-in-place sends a clearer message about the serious nature of this pandemic.  The current patchwork of recommendations is confusing, raising more questions than answers about what Iowans should be doing to help save lives.

We are making this urgent request after hearing from Iowa medical professionals, watching Iowa’s confirmed cases increase by more than 450% since last week, hearing mounting complaints about the shortage of testing and medical equipment, and listening to the growing frustration of many Iowans about the lack of information on the state’s plans and capabilities for combatting this pandemic.

We are all in this together. Our health care professionals and essential workers are putting their lives on the line to keep Iowans healthy and safe.  The private sector is stepping up to help families. Public sector workers are going above and beyond the call of duty.  The federal government is taking unprecedented steps to help workers, businesses and others hit by the pandemic. And we are proud of the efforts by the Iowa Legislature to unanimously pass a package of legislation to address this crisis, including giving you extraordinary powers for policymaking and spending.

But we can do better.

Data provided by private researchers shows Iowans are taking some steps to flatten the curve, but our state is not doing enough to save lives.  The increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases from 100 last Monday to nearly 550 yesterday shows these steps are not enough.

We must ensure Iowans that their health and safety is our number one priority.

A gubernatorial shelter-in-place order would send a clearer message that more Iowans must stay home to flatten the curve and save lives. It would also allow Iowa’s economy to recover faster. Leaders from both parties in more than 35 states who represent 85% of the American population have already issued such orders.

We understand the order would need to exempt essential services, such as food, medicine, and manufacturers producing essential products. Some Governors have simplified their stay-at-home orders by referencing 16 critical infrastructure occupations, as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Thank you for your ongoing efforts during this emergency.  As we await specific information from your Administration regarding the state’s plan for testing and for boosting our PPE and health care infrastructure, Senate and House Democrats remain committed to working with you to provide additional resources to protect the health and safety of all Iowans.

Sincerely,

Janet Petersen                                        Todd Prichard

Senate Democratic Leader                    House Democratic Leader