116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — In lifting Cedar Rapids’ mask mandate on Thursday, Mayor Brad Hart said local governments should retain control over the decision to keep such orders in effect to curb COVID-19 transmission after the governor overnight signed legislation barring schools, cities and counties from adopting mask-wearing requirements.
Although Hart had already eased the city’s mask mandate twice this month to keep requirements in line with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, on Thursday the mayor formally rescinded the order because of the newly passed state law.
“The city of Cedar Rapids encourages those who are unvaccinated to continue to wear masks, social distance and stay home if you are sick,” according to a news release.
Under the new law, which Gov. Kim Reynolds signed early Thursday, local governments and schools cannot enact face mask requirements that exceed the state's face mask policy. The GOP-backed measure was introduced in an amendment to House File 847, and passed both chambers on party-line votes.
“Some cities and counties are in a different place in fighting the pandemic, but the Legislature and the governor do not see it that way, which to me is disappointing,” Hart told The Gazette. “It should be a local control issue, but obviously we’re going to comply with laws.”
Hart just last week modified the city’s mask mandate to allow fully vaccinated individuals to resume pre-pandemic activities without wearing masks in most indoor and outdoor settings based on CDC guidance. Businesses could still opt to require masks within their locations under those changes and are free to do so under the new law.
Cedar Rapids Transit still requires masks be worn in compliance with federal law. The Cedar Rapids Public Library also continues to require masks.
“I hope people who are vaccinated continue to be careful,” Hart said.
Iowa City and Coralville mayors on Tuesday lifted their cities’ mask mandates entirely but urged unvaccinated individuals to keep wearing masks.
Johnson County has vaccinated more of its population, according to Iowa Department of Public Health data, with 50.16 percent of its total population — 75,807 people — fully vaccinated as of Thursday. Meanwhile, in Linn County, 99,201 people — or 43.76 percent of the county’s total population — were fully vaccinated.
And reported COVID-19 cases are higher in Linn County. As of Thursday, the county’s total was 20,964 and its seven-day average was 17. Johnson County reported six cases for a county total of 14,520 and a seven-day average of seven.
City mask mandates had been in effect since the summer, when several communities across Iowa adopted the requirements and pushed back against state officials’ statements that local governments lacked the legal authority to enact such orders.
“I’m disappointed that these decisions aren’t allowed to be made locally because there are pretty dramatic differences in how the pandemic has played out in different communities, different counties across the state,” Hart said.
Hart pointed to statements CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has made encouraging local control over guidance on mask-wearing and vaccinations.
Walensky, while appearing Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” said, “We wanted to deliver the science of the individual level, but we also understand that these decisions have to be made at the community's level.”
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