Health and Science

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'

Key Points
  • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds defended Iowa State University's decision to host a football game in its stadium where 25,000 fans are expected to attend. 
  • Iowa has seen a surge in Covid-19 cases over the last week as university students return to the state. 
  • In Story County, where Iowa State University is located, 27% of tests conducted last week returned positive, Reynolds said.
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. 

Shortly after Reynolds' remarks, Jamie Pollard, director of athletics at Iowa State University, said the university would reverse course and not allow fans into the stadium after receiving feedback from the community.

"Although it is disappointing there won't be fans at the opener, our institution's leadership team is still committed to having spectators at future games, if it can done safely," Pollard said in a statement. 

In Story County, where Iowa State University is located, 27% of tests conducted last week were positive, Reynolds said at the press briefing. She noted that 78% of the new cases were among people 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," the Republican governor 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." 

Pollard originally announced on Monday 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, he 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 news 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 coronavirus task force documents.

The report also called for the state to close bars in 61 counties and limit gatherings to 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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