It’s the first week of school, normally a time of excitement and anticipation. And while kids all over the state headed back into the classroom this week, another emotion is common in families – concern. While we had all hoped this pandemic would be well over by now, the reality is COVID cases are rising dramatically in Iowa again. We need to do all we can to keep each other – especially our kids – safe as the Delta variant ravages our state.

While I’m fortunate to have two kids in college who are both vaccinated, I’ve heard from so many friends and neighbors with young children who remain concerned about the safety of their kids in school, especially those that are too young to get the vaccine yet.

Here’s the latest information we have on COVID in Iowa right now:

Last week, there were 7,619 new positive COVID cases in Iowa. That’s a 253% increase in the last month. Hospitalizations are at 498, the highest since January. With the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending everyone wear a mask indoors to stop transmission, including schools. The guidelines are based on the latest research that shows a vaccinated person can still spread COVID-19, but is less likely to show symptoms and unlikely to get hospitalized. This new data and updated guidance from the CDC has to be taken seriously if we’re going to finally put an end to this pandemic and get life back to normal.

This is why I’ve joined other leaders in demanding Governor Reynolds enact three common sense measures to stop the rise of COVID and keep kids safe in school.

First, the Governor must reverse course and accept $95 million in federal funding, which she initially turned away, to stop the spread of COVID in schools. Last April, the Governor declined those funds that could be put to use right now for things like COVID mitigation and testing.

Second, it’s time for the Governor to return to daily reporting of COVID positive cases and hospitalizations. The rapid increase in cases over the last month makes this imperative. The Iowa Department of Public Health already has the information, they just need to put it on the website to make it public.  With so many kids in school still unable to be vaccinated, it’s only fair that parents can monitor positive cases in their community more than once a week.

Finally, it’s time to allow every school to follow the latest CDC guidelines, including masks and contact tracing.  Last session in the middle of the night, Governor Reynolds signed a bill that banned schools from following CDC guidelines designed to keep kids safe.  We’re now one of just eight states that specifically prohibit schools from following the advice of public health experts.

These three simple steps the Governor should take to keep our kids safe aren’t about politics or partisanship. They’re about common sense.

We’re all exhausted and tired of dealing with COVID. And the frustration is fueled everyday by deep political divisions and endless misinformation on social media.

Our best bet to get life back to normal soon is to tune out the noise and politics and stay focused on following the recommendations of public health experts.

It’s just common sense. Thanks for all you’re doing to take personal responsibility and help get us back to normal. Let’s continue to work together to fight for common-sense measures that will help us get past this pandemic.