Through the years, the Iowa Legislature has chosen an official a state flower and a state bird. There’s also a state tree and even an official rock.
It may be time for lawmakers to designate an official state punctuation mark, too.
The question mark seems to be an appropriate choice — especially after the troubling news from our state in the past few weeks, news that has left many Iowans asking “why?”
Why does it seem as if state health officials do not have a well-planned strategy for vaccinating people in every nook and cranny of our state?
And why have people basically been left to fend for themselves by making numerous phone calls trying to find a clinic or a pharmacy or a county health office that has appointments for the shots available?
Why does it seem as if no one in a position of responsibility has considered until the past week or two how people who do not have computers or Internet access, or people who are working during the day, are supposed to make these appointments — especially when vaccination providers in some communities only allow people to sign up online?
Why did our governor and our United States senators not use their close relationships with President Donald Trump to pressure his administrators to ensure that Iowa received a comparable allotment of vaccine doses, based on population, as other states received?
This is especially vexing because the federal government’s data show Iowa ranked 47th among the 50 states last week, per capita, in its vaccine supply. Iowa was 46th worst among the states in the proportion of its residents who have been vaccinated so far.
That federal data says Iowa has administered 64 percent of its vaccine so far — a percentage that is lower than surrounding states. South Dakota, by contrast, has injected 82 percent of its doses.
Why in the world did Pat Grassley, the speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives, say he lacked the means to require members of the Iowa House to wear masks in the chamber as a health precaution — when lawmakers have to adhere to a dress code that dictates how they appear?
And with that backdrop, why did Grassley think it was a fight worth having when Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell of Ames wore blue jeans onto the House floor and Grassley refused to allow her to speak during debate to punish her for her principled fashion faux pas?
What was Gov. Kim Reynolds thinking last Friday afternoon when she lifted the state’s limited restrictions on public gatherings and cancelled requirements for people to wear masks in certain public spaces — a change that came at a time when cases of a highly contagious new strain of coronavirus has been confirmed in Iowa?
Public health advocates in our state, and national experts, too, all had been warning people to avoid large Super Bowl gatherings out of concern that such events would fuel a new surge in infections.
Why was state government not better prepared for dealing with the growing frustrations of Iowans, Republicans as well as Democrats, seniors as well as younger child care workers and teachers, about the lack of a coordinated sign-up process for COVID-19 inoculations — a failing that left people repeatedly dialing pharmacies and clinics in the hope of finding an available appointment time?
And why did the governor wait until February before starting to build a system for the public to call one number for statewide information on where appointments for vaccination are available?
Why wasn’t such a centralized system created and ready to go last fall, after the president’s coronavirus task force directed the states to be prepared to swiftly begin shots as soon as COVID vaccines received final government approval?
Or this, the ultimate question: Has there ever been such a string of embarrassing missteps by Iowa government officials that have brought such widespread national ridicule to our state and such frustration to our citizens?
No one expects Iowa government’s response to the massive coronavirus tragedy to run without a hiccup. This is a life-or-death problem. Most Iowans care little whether the services they expect from their government are provided by officials with a D behind their names or an R.
These ordinary folks wonder why government in our state has been so clumsy throughout this pandemic.
Most Iowans I know are more focused on getting through this pandemic so life gets back to normal. These Iowans are focused more on their children and their grandchildren, their churches, their jobs and their friends — and not on petty politics.
So far, more than 5,100 of our friends, neighbors and relatives have died from this disease.
That is the reason Governor Reynolds’ handling of the pandemic and the rollout of vaccinations has led to so many questions. People are hoping the death toll doesn’t continue to climb — and getting Iowans vaccinated as quickly as possible is the surest way to make sure that does not happen.
Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com.