Iowa needs a ‘shelter in place’ order

Sullivan's Salvos

By Rod Sullivan
Posted 4/8/20

As the COVID-19 situation continues, public cries for a “shelter in place” order grow louder. I am going to share a few thoughts on this and related matters.

I have said this many …

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Iowa needs a ‘shelter in place’ order

Sullivan's Salvos

Posted

As the COVID-19 situation continues, public cries for a “shelter in place” order grow louder. I am going to share a few thoughts on this and related matters.

I have said this many times before, and I will repeat it: I prefer to make decisions based upon the best data available.

Since I do not have vast experience in public health, I have been looking to three primary sources for information: The Iowa Department of Public Health, Johnson County Public Health and local hospitals.

IDPH has refused to give Johnson County guidance on the metrics.

For example, one metric is the percentage hospitalized. OK. So what percentage constitutes a crisis? 20%? 50%? 80%? No one knows.

The final straw?

IDPH was trying to argue that whatever number they made up for these thresholds should be kept from the public.

To their credit, local health departments seem to have talked them out of that.

IDPH has been a real disappointment to me.

I am frustrated by the lack of preparation, the lack of transparency and the apparent lack of expertise. Iowa must do better.

Dave Koch, the director of Johnson County Public Health, has been the person most front and center on this locally. And he is the person taking the worst beating.

I have tremendous respect for Koch, and it hurts my heart to see all the things the social media trolls are throwing at him.

Dave Koch is a good person put in an impossible position.

Given the lack of direction coming from IDPH, we began to lean heavily on our local hospitals.

And University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Mercy, and the VA have acquitted themselves well. They have been team players, and their medical folks have stepped up to fill the void.

In short, the hospitals are concerned about their supply chains. They do not want to see any interruptions of any kind. I understand that, and I respect that.

I think it is possible to do a “shelter in place” order and still protect the hospitals.

And obviously, hospitals are operating in New York, Illinois and other states where shelter in place orders are in place. All of those orders contain exceptions for hospitals.

So, in the absence of good information, I am faced with a difficult decision.

There may come a day where my granddaughter, Zuri, asks me about the pandemic of 2020. What do I want to tell her? “Papa lacked the courage to act, so extra people died?”

That characterization may be completely unfair. But if there is one thing I have learned doing this job for 16 years, it is don’t expect things to be fair.

I will be damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. There is no win here.

Given all that, I advocated for a “shelter in place” order at the March 26 Board of Supervisors meeting.

It isn’t clear Iowa law allows county boards to take such an action. We are in uncharted territory.

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