Iowa is denying the public access to some records of its COVID-19 response

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration has denied some requests for information about Iowa’s preparedness and response to the novel coronavirus by citing a broad exemption in the state’s public records law.

Two Iowa agencies have denied Des Moines Register requests this month seeking documentation of the state’s pandemic response plan and daily reports regarding the state’s response to the virus and COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.

In their denials, the agencies, which are leading Iowa’s response to COVID-19, cited a broad confidentiality exemption in Iowa’s public records law that says information and records about “physical infrastructure, cyber security, critical infrastructure, security procedures or emergency preparedness” can be denied if “disclosure could reasonably be expected to jeopardize such life or property.”

Experts on public records criticized the lack of transparency.

“When you lose transparency, you lose trust,” said Daniel Bevarly, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. “… then you start to grow seeds of suspicion. ‘Why not? You know, what are they not telling us?'” (Read more)