As the coronavirus continues to ravage Iowa communities with no end in sight, new reports have only made more clear how Senator Joni Ernst’s failure to respond to the emerging crisis in February left our state more vulnerable to this unprecedented crisis. 

Despite receiving private senate briefings on COVID-19 since January and even a fellow GOP senator sounding alarms that the Trump administration was unprepared to prevent an outbreak, Senator Ernst downplayed and politicized the crisis – leaving Iowans uninformed, ill-equipped, and without a leader in the Senate fighting for them.

Senator Ernst Politicized COVID-19 From the Start, Saying Democrats Were “Trying to Stir Up Panic”

As coronavirus began to take root across the country, Senator Ernst was instead focused on finding a political scapegoat to protect the GOP from criticism of their catastrophically failed response. At a February 29 town hall in Muscatine, Ernst downplayed the severity of the emerging pandemic, telling Iowans that Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi were “trying to stir up panic” in order to lay blame on the president, who “has done quite well” at containing the crisis.

Fast forward a six weeks – coronavirus’ outbreak remains uncontrolled across Iowa communities: nearly 2,000 cases, 49 deaths, at least six long-term care facility outbreaks, 165,000 workers laid off, and health workers ill-equipped to protect themselves from sick patients.

Senator Ernst Praised the Trump Administration’s Disastrous Early Response, Including the China Travel Ban that Categorically Failed to Keep America Safe

When asked about the potential toll of the emerging crisis, Senator Ernst provided unfounded reassurance that the administration’s “swift action” to prevent an outbreak was “absolutely appropriate.” But as reports have brought to light, Senator Ernst was simply repeating GOP talking points while the Trump Administration “squandered months” by failing to deliver early prevention, leaving Iowa without a federal safety net and at its own peril.

Senator Ernst provided further false assurance claiming that by enacting a “China travel ban,” the Trump Administration “did exactly what they needed to do…the absolute right thing, right away.” However, this was just another instance of Ernst covering for her party leaders regardless of its consequences on Iowans. Over 40,000 travelers flew from China to the United States after “ban” was put in place, frequently with inadequate health screenings allowing passengers to unknowingly carry the virus into the country.

Senator Ernst Tried to Deceive Iowans on Her Votes Against CDC Funding, Setting the Stage for Her Cover-Up for Repeatedly Opposing Urgent COVID-19 Relief

As the GOP faced mounting criticism of their efforts to gut the federal government’s pandemic disease response resources, Senator Ernst used her town hall as an opportunity to take false credit for CDC funding increases that she voted against.

Unfortunately, that was only the start of Senator Ernst’s months-long cover-up of her real record of failing to fight for Iowans throughout this pandemic.

Even as the crisis grew more dire, Ernst repeatedly worked to block vital aid for Iowa communities, voting to gut expanded unemployment benefits, kill paid family leave, and push through a relief bill without an additional $55 billion in aid for hospitals – only to later brag on the measures in a shameful attempt to deceive voters.