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IOWA CITY — Although the City of Iowa City on Thursday night defied state law by mandating masks in all indoor spaces — specifically naming in its proclamation University of Iowa academic buildings and business offices — UI administrators on Friday advised campus leaders the mandate doesn’t apply to them.
“While the university appreciates the sentiments expressed by the mayor, his order does not and cannot apply to the University of Iowa,” UI Vice President for External Relations Peter Matthes wrote in a Friday morning message to UI college deans. “As a state agency, the university must comply with state law and our governing body, the Board of Regents, state of Iowa.”
The board in May announced its three public universities would return to pre-pandemic levels of in-person learning and would no longer require masking or distancing on campus. Gov. Kim Reynolds that month also signed into law an order barring local school boards from enacting mask mandates in schools.
With COVID case rates and hospitalizations climbing across Iowa just as students at all levels return to class, Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague on Thursday reinstated an emergency mask mandate through Sept. 30 requiring face coverings in indoor settings like stores, restaurants, public schools, movie theaters, and the UI campus.
A spokesman for Gov. Reynolds on Thursday said the Iowa City order is “not enforceable.”
In Mattes’ message Friday, he referenced the urging his campus has done around vaccination and masking.
“The University of Iowa strongly encourages face masks in all classroom settings and during in-person office hours,” according to a campus message this week, which noted Johnson County has the highest vaccination rate in the state — at 71 percent of those eligible getting the shot.
“Please do your part to keep our community safe by getting your free vaccination today.”
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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