Governor Reynolds. (RI photo)

Governor Kim Reynolds says there is “no cause for panic” about the rise in Covid cases in Iowa, especially among children and teenagers, and no need to change the state law which prevents mask mandates in schools.

“The virus — it’s here to stay,” Reynolds said late this morning, “which means we have to find a way to live with it in a responsible, balanced and sustainable way.”

During a news conference in her statehouse office, Reynolds said “it’s obvious” vaccines are the best tool to counter Covid-19 and that’s why she got a Covid shot this spring, but she said some Iowans may have “really justified reasons” for not getting vaccinated.

“I believe the government’s role in a public health crisis is to provide the public reliable information so that they can make their own informed decisions, “Reynolds said. “I also believe this approach is more effective than mandates that attempt to dictate other people’s behavior.”

The governor told reporters Iowa’s Covid vaccination rate is rising — by about “a tenth” of a percent per day — and Reynolds said she’s leaving it up to Iowans to decide how to manage the virus under the normal course of their daily lives.

“Over 18 months, Iowans have come to understand that this is a long game,” Reynolds said. “We know that virus activity can and does fluctuate. We have shown we can respond and adapt without abandoning the reasonable and balanced approach that has proven effective.”

Twenty-two percent of Covid cases confirmed by testing in the past week were among Iowans under the age of 18. Another 20% were among Iowans between the ages of 18 and 29.

According to Reynolds, 99% of new cases in the state are linked to the more contagious Delta variant of Covid. Reynolds said resources in some Iowa hospitals are being stretched by Covid cases as well as other kind of health emergencies and workforce issues.

“In November of last year when Covid was surging, hospitalizations rose to an all time high of 1527. We don’t want to relive that experience and thankfully it’s unlikely that we will,” Reynolds said. “The situation is different now, most notably because we have a vaccine.”

The governor cited federal data indicating 66.4% of Iowans above the age of 12 have had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. The Iowa Department of Public Health’s website shows 49.2% of Iowa residents are fully vaccinated.