Governor’s right: No reason to avoid

After more than a year of disease, death and despair, the COVID-19 pandemic is receding.

We can help speed that process by rolling up our sleeves. Not to go to work, but to take the vaccine. For some reason, hundreds of thousands of Iowans are refusing to get vaccinated against a deadly plague that has killed nearly 6,000 residents of the state and infected more than 364,000.

After months of waiting for a method to avoid the coronavirus, there are enough vaccines for all. And yet, far too many Iowans and Americans are refusing to take it, either out of ignorance, fear or a deadly combination of both.

The state turned down 22,000 doses this week, since the demand has slackened. In fact, 43 of Iowa’s 99 counties declined some or all the vaccines they were offered.

It’s time to end this. It’s time to pull together. It’s time to get vaccinated.

We are seeing signs of progress. The Sheldon and Sioux Center school districts ended their mask mandates last month, although masks are still encouraged and some students and staff are still wearing them.

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that we no longer need to wear masks when outdoors.

“Starting today, if you’re fully vaccinated and you’re outdoors . . . and not in a big crowd, you no longer need to wear a mask,” Biden said at an outdoor press event.

He has been vaccinated, as have all the former presidents — Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, both Republicans and Democrats. There is no reason for this to be a partisan issue, but polls show many more Republicans are reluctant or refusing to take the vaccine.

There is a lot of good news and reason for optimism. But we aren’t out of this yet.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration still recommends taking precautions. Its advice remains: Get a COVID-19 vaccine. Wash your hands often with plain soap and water. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others. Avoid crowds and practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet apart from others.

How about herd immunity? When will we reach the point that the virus can no longer freely spread?

According to health-care experts, we will get there much faster if more people get vaccinated, with between 70 percent and 80 percent seen as the preferred level.

There have been good examples, as Gov. Kim Reynolds took the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine at her March 3 news conference, doing so alongside her husband, Kevin, and Iowa Department of Public Health administrator Kelly Garcia live on TV.

“I wanted to ensure Iowans that I believe it is a safe vaccine and not to be afraid to take it,” the governor said.

We applaud Reynolds for her leadership on this. She is correct when she asks: Why wait? Why not get your shots and help all of us move forward?

“I want to appeal to everyone who’s hesitating,” Reynolds said at her April 21 news conference. “If you’re opting to wait and see, what are you waiting for? If you’ve been a hard ‘no’ from the start, what’s your reason? And if you can’t answer those questions, maybe, we hope, that you take the time to reconsider.”