CORONAVIRUS

Linn County leaders meet to discuss future of mask usage around the county

Leaders from various communities met on Wednesday to decide how to recommend residents to wear masks going forward.

AP Illustration of masks by Peter Hamlin
AP Illustration of masks by Peter Hamlin

CEDAR RAPIDS — Leaders from Fairfax, Hiawatha, Marion, Ely, Central City, Palo, Robins and Linn County met Wednesday to discuss the possibility of issuing mask mandates like Cedar Rapids did last week.

Last Wednesday, Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart issued an emergency proclamation requiring face masks to be worn in public as a way to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Iowa remains among the states leading the nation in COVID-19 cases per capita.

The Cedar Falls City Council voted Tuesday night to join Waterloo in enacting a mask mandate, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported. Other Iowa cities with mask mandates include Des Moines, Iowa City, Mount Vernon, Muscatine and Dubuque.

“I think we all know why we’re here, especially those of us in the metro area with Cedar Rapids moving forward with a mask mandate; it raises the question what the rest of the county would consider,” said Marion City Manager Lon Pluckhahn.

Pluckhahn said the meeting’s purpose was to see if there was common opinion among the communities and the county.

Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers said while each community has differences, he is in support of shared language for a countywide proclamation.

“I wish in hindsight that Cedar Rapids would’ve signaled that they were going to do this since we all signed off on the previous proclamation, but they did it so that’s a catalyst for this discussion,” Rogers said during the meeting.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

In August, the supervisors issued their own proclamation calling on Gov. Kim Reynolds to allow local control in issuing mask mandates — something she has repeatedly said local officials they do not have the legal authority to enact, though many have.

Reynolds has encouraged Iowans to wear face masks but said she will not require it.

The earlier Linn County proclamation had the support and signatures of the county’s mayors.

“This conversation could be solved if there was a statewide mask mandate,” Rogers told The Gazette. “The various patchwork of mandates or voluntary use is confusing to citizens but because of a lack of a uniform statewide requirement.”

All the community leaders supported wearing masks and encouraging residents in each city to wear them, but various leaders said they want to avoid using the term “mandate.”

“I appreciate we are all together on this,” Marion City Council Member Rene Gadelha said. “If there’s something there between a recommendation and a mandate, I’d be for that. Wearing a mask is the right thing to do and after the derecho, we saw people come together so I hope people would get on board for something like this. It’s about community and helping one another.”

Robins Mayor Chuck Hinz also noted that “mandate” has “negative implications” and said that “we are in favor of ideally doing some metro/countywide proclamation to state that ‘here’s what you ought to be doing, here’s what we support, go out there and be good, common, friendly citizens.’”

The other concern leaders had with issuing a mandate had to do with issues of enforcement.

“I’m still getting push back on the issue of enforcement,” Hiawatha Mayor Bill Bennett said. “In Cedar Rapids, I’ve seen an uptick of people wearing masks. You get out to rural areas and you see none of it … I just don’t know how we’re going to control this. I like the idea of uniformity among the community, I just don’t know how we do it.”

Pluckhahn told The Gazette that a draft proclamation will be developed and sent out for review following the joint meeting, but it will remain up to each community how to proceed.

Comments: (319) 398-8255; gage.miskimen@thegazette.com

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.