Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday blamed migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border for some of the nation's Covid-19 spike, saying "none of them are vaccinated and they’re getting dispersed throughout the country."
While public health experts have been citing the virus' delta variant and lagging U.S. vaccination efforts for the latest coronavirus surge, Reynolds said partial responsibility rests with newcomers coming across the southern border.
"Part of the problem is the southern border is open and we’ve got 88 countries that are coming across the border and they don’t have vaccines," Reynolds told reporters Tuesday.
A spokesman for Reynolds said Wednesday her statement mirrors views from other lawmakers in Texas.
Joe Henry, state political director for the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, called Reynolds’ statement “hate mongering” and said she should concentrate on boosting Iowa vaccinations.
Less than half of Iowa residents are fully vaccinated, according to the latest state data.
“For her to say that, we consider that hate mongering,” Henry told NBC News on Wednesday. “She needs to be doing her job here in Iowa. We’re still having a problem here in Iowa with people being vaccinated.”
Reynolds' comments came as the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued new masking guidelines in the wake of a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The CDC said all students in kindergarten through 12th grade — and teachers and staff — should wear masks when they return to classrooms this fall, even those who have been vaccinated.
The Biden administration Tuesday also confirmed earlier reports that it's now recommending indoor mask use for anyone in areas of high transmission.