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Democrats claim IDPH wasn't consulted ahead of Friday proclamation removing mask mandate

"She made a reckless decision ... I don't think this was about the public's health," Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque said of Gov. Reynolds' order.

DES MOINES, Iowa — EDITOR'S NOTE: The above video is from Friday, Feb. 5

Democratic lawmakers at the statehouse say the Iowa Department of Public Health was not consulted ahead of Gov. Kim Reynolds' decision to roll back coronavirus-related restrictions, including a mask mandate.

Reynolds issued a new public health measure Friday rescinding the mask mandate and lifting capacity restrictions on businesses and other locations.

The move was met with numerous doctors and state and local leaders wondering what data the governor had used made her decision. 

Iowa is the lowest in the country in terms of the percentage of people who have received the first dose of the vaccine, according to a New York Times analysis of CDC data.

Thousands of students and teachers are going back into the classroom this month after a new law was signed requiring school districts offer 100% in-person instruction as an option for parents.

The more contagious U.K. variant was also confirmed in Iowa last week.

In a Monday phone call, Interim IDPH Director Kelly Garcia was asked if her department had been consulted by the governor before the proclamation was issued. Garcia confirmed IDPH had not, according to numerous lawmakers on the phone meeting.

One of the lawmakers, Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque said the fact the governor hadn't conferred with her own public health department was "mind-boggling."

"The only sense I can make of that is this is all about politics," James said. "She made a reckless decision ... I don't think this was about the public's health."

James was one of several lawmakers who made the information public by tweeting about it soon after the meeting. She said in an interview with Local 5 her decision to post on social media about the call was for transparency.

"I think it's important for Iowans to know how these public health decisions are made," said James.

State Sen. Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, also tweeted that IDPH was not consulted before Reynolds' decision.

According to Sarah Ekstrand, a spokeswoman for IDPH, "IDPH advises the Governor daily on the state's COVID-19 response. As the Governor has done from the beginning of this pandemic, she has adjusted the mitigation efforts based on the availability of healthcare resources."

The call with IDPH is offered to Republican lawmakers on a weekly basis as well.

The governor's office also provided this statement to reporters on Monday in response to the IDPH call:

"The governor has been consistent since the beginning of the pandemic and is following through with her commitment to dial back restrictions based on a significant decrease in COVID hospitalizations."

318 Iowans are hospitalized from the virus as of 10 a.m. Monday, down from 579 on Jan. 8 and 900 on Dec. 8, 2020.

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