Mike Pence praises Gov. Reynolds’ leadership on COVID-19 as the state and Linn County set new COVID-19 records

Sen. Joni Ernst with Gov. Kim Reynolds on Oct. 29; Vice President Mike Pence speaking in Des Moines, Oct. 29. — via Joni Ernst and Mike Pence on Twitter

Five days before the election, Vice President Mike Pence landed at the Des Moines International Airport long enough to give a 45-minute speech to a crowd of supporters, encouraging them to vote for President Trump, Sen. Joni Ernst and other Republican candidates.

About 30 minutes into his speech on Thursday, Pence reminded the people gathered on the cold tarmac that he is the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. He then went on to praise President Trump’s response to COVID-19.

To do so, Pence had to ignore the current state of the pandemic.

“With daily reports of coronavirus cases in the United States surging to previously unseen heights, averaging more than 75,000 a day over the last week, the country on Thursday crossed the threshold of 9 million known infections since the pandemic began,” the New York Times reported on Thursday morning.

The Times noted, “Twenty-one states added more cases in the seven-day period ending Wednesday than in any other seven-day stretch of the pandemic.” Overall, 42 states have reported an increase in the rate of new cases during the past week.

Pence lightly touched on the spread of the virus, as he reassured his supporters that the Trump administration would take care of them.

“Even as we’re seeing cases rising in parts of the country, the people of Iowa can be confident that we’re going to continue –continue to work around the clock to assure that all of the doctors and nurses have all the support they need to give any Iowa family impacted by the coronavirus the level of care we’d want for a member of our family,” he said.

The number of COVID-19 patients reported in Iowa hospitals surpassed 600 for the first time on Thursday. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, as of Thursday morning there 605 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state. It was the fourth day in a row that Iowa has set a new record for hospitalized patients.

One hundred and thirty-five of those COVID-19 patients are being treated in intensive care units.

It wasn’t just the number of hospitalized patients that set a record on Thursday. IDPH reported 186 new cases of COVID-19 in Linn County for the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m. That is the highest number of new cases reported in the county in one day since the virus was first detected in March.

Johnson County had a high number of new cases during the same period as well, with IDPH reporting 72 more residents were confirmed as having the virus.

Statewide, IDPH reported 2,469 new cases of COVID-19 between 10 a.m. on Wednesday and 10 a.m. on Thursday. It also reported another 11 Iowans, including one resident of Johnson County, had died of the virus, increasing the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,691.

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The task force Pence heads said in its latest state-level report, “All indicators of community spread are increasing” in Iowa.

Pence didn’t mention the report during his speech on Thursday, but did say, “I have to pause for a second and give some credit where credit is due” before praising Gov. Kim Reynolds for what he called her “steady, strong and compassionate leadership” on COVID-19.

“The president and I are grateful,” Pence said. “And the people of Iowa are blessed to have Gov. Kim Reynolds in the governor’s office at such a time as this.”

Reynolds, of course, was at the rally, and spoke before the vice president arrived.

The governor has been keeping an active schedule campaigning for Ernst and other Republicans in recent weeks. Speaking to the Des Moines Register after a campaign event in Bondurant on Wednesday evening, Reynolds said the demands of election season are one of the reasons she has not held a news conference on COVID-19 since Oct. 7.

“There’s a lot going on,” Reynolds said. “There’s a lot of chaos with the election, and so, you know, we’re out trying to get the message to where we need to, and we’re going to continue to do it. And we’ll get back to a routine sooner rather than later.”

The governor rejected the idea that not holding news conferences means she not fulfilling her pledge to keep Iowans informed about COVID-19.

“I’m very accessible,” she said. “I’m actually calling in and talking to Iowans in areas where we see … the community spread a little bit higher than it should be. That’s who I need to reach out to, and that’s what I’m doing, and I’ve done it for the last two weeks.”

Reporters spoke briefly with Reynolds on Thursday afternoon as she was exiting another Ernst campaign event, this time in the city of Stuart, and downplayed the significance of large number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The governor said the average length of stay in the hospital has decreased since the early months of the pandemic, suggesting that means the situation is actually improving, not becoming more serious.

KCCI’s Chris Geithner asked Reynolds if she plans to make any changes in her approach to COVID-19 given the new records the state has been setting.

“No,” Reynolds said. “You know, we’re continuing to learn to live with it, to live with COVID-19, as we move forward.”