Iowa’s Largest Physicians Group: ‘Now is not the time to spread mistruths and distrust’

DES MOINES – In a new report today by the Des Moines Register, UnityPoint Health’s chief medical officer and the Iowa Medical Society criticized Senator Joni Ernst and expressed fear that “Iowans might take COVID-19 less seriously,” after she pushed dangerous and debunked conspiracy theories that medical professionals are overcounting COVID-19 cases and deaths for profit.

Their warnings add onto a cascade of condemnation from frontline health care workers across Iowa and the country who are putting their lives on the line to fight the virus – calling Senator Ernst’s lies “incredibly offensive,” “a slap in the face,” and “insulting.” 

Today on CNN, Dr. Austin Baeth – a physician at UnityPoint Health Des Moines – warned on Ernst’s controversial comments, “It’s downplaying the severity of this pandemic, and that gives free room for the deniers to act recklessly. And so those who are downplaying this have blood on their hands.”

Des Moines Register: Ernst’s COVID-19 speculation could lead public to let guard down, Iowa doctors fear

By: Tony Leys

September 3, 2020

  • UnityPoint Health’s top physician said on Thursday, Sept. 3, he fears Iowans might take COVID-19 less seriously after U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst publicly speculated that doctors have exaggerated the disease’s death toll.
  • Pediatrician Dave Williams, UnityPoint Health’s chief medical officer, said that if anything, official estimates of the COVID-19 death toll are too low. He pushed back on Ernst’s support of speculation that doctors are falsely attributing some deaths to the disease because they receive extra money for treating COVID-19 cases.
  • Ernst stirred national controversy with comments Monday during a campaign appearance in Black Hawk County. She seemed to agree with a voter who aired a conspiracy theory, which claims many people who are listed as dying from COVID-19 actually died of something else.
  • Williams isn’t the only Iowa doctor taking issue with Ernst’s words to the voter Monday. The Iowa Medical Society, which is the state’s largest physicians’ group, also criticized her.
  • “It is incredibly disappointing to see comments attributed to Senator Ernst implying that the Iowa medical community is doing anything other than continuing to uphold its long track record of providing the highest quality of care and rising to the evolving challenges of the pandemic with the greatest of integrity,” the group wrote on its Facebook page. “… Now is not the time to spread mistruths and distrust. We must work together to keep Iowans safe and healthy.

Read the full report here.