Vice President Pence praised Iowa's response to COVID-19, but the state — which is starting to reopen — is experiencing a rising death toll from the coronavirus
Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that Iowa "has been leading the way" in the fight against COVID-19. The state recently began allowing religious institutions to hold in-person services again, despite a rising death toll from the coronavirus. "We are pretty much in a position of uniformly believing that it's too early to return to personal worship. It's inadvisable at the moment particularly with rising case counts in communities where we are across the state," David Kaufman, rabbi of Temple B'nai Jeshurun in Des Moines, told the Associated Press. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Vice President Mike Pence has said Iowa is a COVID-19 "success story," telling religious leaders on Friday that it "has been leading the way with Governor Kim Reynolds," a fellow Republican who has begun reopening the state. But while not as hard hit as America's coasts, Iowa has still suffered at least 243 confirmed deaths due to the coronavirus — nearly as many as South Korea, despite having 1/16th the population — with a dozen more fatalities reported the day of Pence's trip. Gov. Reynolds recently allowed religious institutions to hold socially-distanced services again, a fact that won her an invite to the White House earlier in the week and the visit on Friday from Pence, whose trip was briefly delayed by the news that his press secretary tested positive for COVID-19. "We grieve the loss of life here in Iowa, but the numbers speak for themselves," the vice president said, per the Des Moines Register. Those numbers, however, are trending in an upward direction. The 12 deaths announced on Friday are an increase from the 8 deaths announced a week before, and the single death reported a month ago. Indeed, as the Associated Press reported, "Iowa this week experienced its worst one- and two-day virus-related death totals" — a total of 31 on Tuesday and Wednesday — "and hospitalizations continued to climb to a new one-day high of more than 400 on Wednesday." The state never imposed a shelter-in-place order, with the governor citing the potential adverse effects on mental health, but it did shutter restaurants and bars. Reynolds also encouraged Iowans to "be responsible and stay home as much as possible." More recently, however, Reynolds has sought to return much of the state to the pre-pandemic normal, despite the rising toll of the virus. On April 27, she announced that in 77 of Iowa's 99 counties, restaurants, gyms, and retail stores could reopen at half-capacity. "We must learn to live with COVID virus activity without letting it govern our lives," she said. Reynolds also said that religious institutions could start holding in-person services again, provided they increased sanitation and enabled worshippers to remain six feet apart.
On Friday, Vice President Pence attended a forum with the state's religious leaders, describing restrictions on services as "a source of heartache for people across the country." Still, while some are indeed taking advantage of the state's loosened policy, some appear to be saying: not so fast. "We are pretty much in a position of uniformly believing that it's too early to return to personal worship. It's inadvisable at the moment particularly with rising case counts in communities where we are across the state," David Kaufman, rabbi of Temple B'nai Jeshurun in Des Moines, told the Associated Press. Kaufman, who spoke with Pence at the forum, wore a mask. The vice president did not. Have a news tip? Email this reporter: email@example.comJoin the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Inside London during COVID-19 lockdown
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In a historic first, mosques are used as caucus sites in Iowa to encourage Muslim voter participation
Mosques were approved as caucus sites in Iowa for the first time ever this year. Five...Mosques were approved as caucus sites in Iowa for the first time ever this year. Five mosques in the Des Moines area were used as caucus sites during the first 2020 Democratic primary contest on Monday. Muslims make up roughly 1% of adults among the nearly 3.2 million people who live in Iowa. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. For the first time ever, mosques were approved to be used as caucus sites in Iowa for the first Democratic primary contest on Monday. In an effort to increase participation amid an era of increased Islamophobia in the US, the Iowa Democratic party approved five mosques in the Des Moines area as official satellite caucus locations, Al Jazeera reported. Muslims make up roughly 1% of adults among the nearly 3.2 million people who live in Iowa. Members of Congress who endorsed and have been campaigning for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, including Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ro Khanna of California, have visited the sites. Omar, one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress in US history, visited the Muslim Community Organization in Des Moines, Iowa, after prayers on Friday. "It's not about somebody else. This election cycle is about us. This election cycle is about your daughters who are in schools who are dealing with xenophobia, with racism, with Islamophobia," Omar said to members of the community, urging them to participate on Monday, Middle East Eye reported. Khanna, who is one of Sanders' campaign co-chairs, took photos with Muslim women who were reportedly caucusing for Sanders in Iowa on Monday. Congressman @RoKhanna taking photos with Muslim women caucusing for @BernieSanders at mosque in Des Moines, Iowa pic.twitter.com/1cLWakrwPH — Ali Harb (@Harbpeace) February 4, 2020 Ako Abdul-Samad, the only Muslim state lawmaker in Iowa, told Al Jazeera "it's historical" to see mosques used as caucus sites. "I think now that Muslims are coming out because we are now realising that if we don't tell our story, nobody else will," Abdul-Samad said. Bilingual English-Spanish satellite caucuses were also held for the first time on Monday in Iowa — a state with a 6.2% Hispanic or Latino population, according to the US Census Bureau. This was done in an effort to encourage Latino voters to participate. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Extremists turned a frog meme into a hate symbol, but Hong Kong protesters revived it as an emblem of hope