As election nears, Joni Ernst under pressure over COVID remarks

While campaigning in Waterloo recently, Ernst said she was “so skeptical” about the United States’ total COVID-19 death count after someone in the crowd raised the question.

“These health-care providers and others are reimbursed at a higher rate if COVID is tied to it, so what do you think they’re doing?” Ernst said, according to an account by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. More than 193,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, but Ernst said, “They’re thinking there may be 10,000 or less deaths that were actually singularly COVID-19.”…

Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican, has dismissed several White House Coronavirus Task Force recommendations — including issuing a mask mandate. Reynolds has not given local officials the authority to set their own mask mandates, but many of the state’s larger communities have issued them. Reynolds and Ernst both urge Iowans to take personal responsibility when it comes to wearing a mask.

Two days after expressing skepticism about the death toll, Ernst appeared to walk back her comments and acknowledged the official mortality figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Iowa Medical Society said she apologized to them in a meeting, but wouldn’t do it publicly.