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Governor Kim Reynolds doesn’t rule out raising the drinking age as COVID-19 cases surge among young people

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Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds says she isn’t ruling out further action to address the meteoric rise in COVID-19 cases among younger Iowans, including raising the drinking age.

Iowa leads the nation in new COVID-19 cases per capita in the last two weeks, coinciding with the return of college students to Iowa campuses.

Governor Reynolds says the majority of those cases are Iowans in their late teens and early 20’s in university and college towns.

This week Ames and Iowa City ranked first and second national in new COVID-19 cases per capita.

Governor Reynolds responded to that spike in infections last week when she announced the closures of bars and other alcohol serving limitations in six Iowa counties.

Reynolds said on Wednesday that she is hopeful those mitigation efforts will slow the spread of the virus. If those measures prove ineffective, Reynolds says she will take further action.

When asked specifically if she has considered raising the drinking age in Iowa to keep younger crowds out of bars, Reynolds did not rule it out.

“Well, we’re going to try this first,” Governor Reynolds said about the current measures in place, “We had restrictions, they didn’t abide by that. We put enforcement behind it, we gave them a warning, we set up a fine, we said if it happens again you’re going to lose your license.”

The governor stressed that she hopes that isn’t the case and that in the next week numbers will hopefully begin to drop. “I don’t like doing that,” she said, “I am trying to balance the health and safety of Iowans with the livelihood of these small businesses. This has been a horrible year and nobody understands that as much as I do.”

Reynolds also announced that the state is offering assistance to bars and restaurants affected by the closures she ordered. Business owners can apply for up to $10,000 to offset cash flow issues through the Iowa Small Business Relief Program.

Governor Reynolds full press conference can be found here.