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Gov. Reynolds defends Iowa State’s decision to host 25,000 fans at football stadium: ‘Don’t go if you don’t think it’s safe’

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds speaks during an American Workforce Policy Advisory Board Meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on June 26, 2020.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday defended Iowa State University’s decision to host a football game in its stadium where 25,000 fans are expected to attend — even as coronavirus cases climb in the state — advising people who may be concerned to not go. 

“If you have underlying conditions and you’re part of a vulnerable population, maybe I wouldn’t go to the Iowa State football game next week,” Reynolds said during a press briefing when asked whether it’s safe to host thousands of fans in the stands for the university’s home opener. 

Iowa has seen a recent surge in Covid-19 cases as university students return to the state. Over the last week, Reynolds said 12.1% of tests conducted statewide were positive compared with 7.9% during the first week of August. 

In Story County, where Iowa State University is located, 27% of tests conducted last week were positive, she said. Reynolds noted that 78% of the new cases were among people between the ages of 19 to 24, which could threaten more vulnerable populations if the virus begins spreading through the community. 

“We can’t prevent people from getting sick or stop the virus completely, but together we can mitigate and manage it,” Reynolds said. “We can do these things safely and responsible. We can open our schools back up, we can open our colleges back up, we can continue to move forward but we have to have personal responsibility.” 

On Monday, Iowa State University announced it would forge ahead with its plans to host its home-opening football game on Sept. 12 despite the spike in Covid-19 cases across the state.

Jamie Pollard, director of athletics at Iowa State University, said in the announcement that “every person has a unique perspective of the Covid-19 pandemic” and highlighted a number of mitigation efforts the university will undertake to hold the game, including required face coverings and social distancing. 

However, Pollard said that implementing the steps to “a standard of absolute protection is simply not reasonable” and it will ultimately be up to the fans to decide whether it’s safe to attend or not. 

“Don’t go if you don’t think it’s safe. Don’t go,” Reynolds said at the new briefing Wednesday.

Reynolds has pushed back on issuing a statewide mask mandate even though a White House report on Sunday highly suggested the state require one, according to reports from the Des Moines Register, which cited internal White House coronaviurs task force documents.

The report also called for the state to close bars in 61 counties and limit gatherings to only 10 people in “red zones,” which include some of the state’s most populated counties and cities. 

Reynolds said the state has taken some mitigation efforts to prevent further spread, including closing bars six of the state’s counties. However, some public health experts have criticized the order for coming too late. 

The state will monitor the cases over the coming week to determine whether the steps were enough to prevent further spread, though they have to take additional actions if they don’t, she said. 

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