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'Lives really do hang in the balance': Des Moines doctor urges Gov. Reynolds to issue a shelter-in-place order

"We need time," Dr. Austin Baeth said. "We have to give us time to slow this down to be prepared."

DES MOINES, Iowa — A Des Moines doctor called on Gov. Kim Reynolds to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order Monday.

“I think nearly every colleague I talk to can't believe that we don't already have a stay-at-home order,” UnityPoint Dr. Austin Baeth said.

Baeth said Iowa should be learning from places like China, Italy, Washington state and New York. He said Iowa needs to issue stricter orders now while there is still time.

"We know what's coming and we have the time to prepare, but we are squandering that opportunity,” Baeth said.

Saturday, Baeth starts his hospital rotation. He’ll also temporarily say goodbye to his wife, who is due with their child in July.

"My wife is actually going to go stay with her sister so that if or when I become infected, I don't infect her,” Baeth said.

In Iowa, as we’re seeing across the country, there’s a shortage of protective gear for doctors. This includes shortages of items like face masks and face shields. 

Ventilators, which are used to treat patients with severe cases of COVID-19, are also in short supply.

"This disease is much less deadly when we have ventilators for all the people who need them, when we have hospital beds for everybody who needs them and we have the equipment to protect all the healthcare workers," Baeth said. "We need time. We have to give us time to slow this down to be prepared."

Baeth said it's hard to know what Iowa's true case count is because test kits are hard to come by.

"We're doing this blindly right now,” Baeth said. “I have so many patients who are calling in sick with symptoms that are consistent with COVID, but they don't qualify for testing because we don't have enough tests to test everyone."

The governor is the only one who can order Iowans to stay home. Local governments don't have that power here.

“We know that even a delay of one day makes a difference,” Baeth said. “I hope that she makes this decision to be more aggressive with this sooner rather than later because lives really do hang in the balance.”

Baeth said COVID-19 is not your average cold or influenza and said those not following CDC recommendations are taking big risks.

"We have to be careful now because either these people are going to find out for themselves how serious of a disease this is or they're going to find out when they're watching their loved one suffocate from it,” Baeth said.

Reynolds said Monday that her team looks at data in the state daily. She said she will ramp up or down orders as data shows it's needed. 

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