CORONAVIRUS

Linn supervisors seek mask support from mayors

County lacks authority for mandate so will urge cities to seek local control

(Dreamstime/TNS)
(Dreamstime/TNS)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County supervisors are planning to meet with mayors next week to discuss a proclamation calling for Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to grant cities local control so cities can mandate the wearing of face coverings.

The supervisors said they hope to hold the meeting with mayors and the county’s board of public health early next week, perhaps during the board’s work session at 11 a.m. Monday.

“My goal is to have the draft finalized and sent off to mayors today,” Supervisor Ben Rogers said during the supervisors’ meeting Wednesday.

County supervisors don’t have the authority to issue an enforceable mask mandate for the county. Instead, the board wants to issue a proclamation, calling on Reynolds to allow local authority over mask mandates.

The goal is to have county mayors sign on to the message to Reynolds.

Rogers said the proclamation asks for local control for both counties and cities — “to delegate that authority to local municipalities, to enforce the wearing of a mask, a tool she (Reynolds) isn’t using herself.”

Supervisor Brent Oleson said the Mount Vernon City Council is crafting its own resolution for mandatory face coverings, which could come to a vote at its meeting Monday night.

Rogers reported that Springville also has interest in signing on and that he has reached out to Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha and Marion.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart told the Gazette that Cedar Rapids plans to back the county’s proclamation.

“The City of Cedar Rapids intends to join in this ask, an ask we’ve made before,” Hart said.

Marion City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said Marion plans to be on board with the county’s proclamation as well.

“While we have consistently reinforced the messaging from Linn County Public Health encouraging people to wear masks, anything official about making them a requirement would go through the full council,” he said.

Assistant Linn County Attorney Lisa Epp told the board earlier this week the county does not have the power to enforce a mandate or issue penalties.

Cities, she said, have a “slighter edge” on being able to enfoce such a mandate via proclamations or resolutions.

Any measure the supervisors adopt would apply only to the rural, unincorporated parts of the county, Epps said.

Last week, Johnson County supervisors backed a face mask mandate but acknowledged its mandate was not enforceable.

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On Tuesday night, the North Liberty City Council unanimously adopted a face mask resolution, asking those in the city to wear face coverings while in public and to social distance — though use was not mandated.

Reynolds has stated city mandates are invalid and in conflict with her statewide COVID-19 proclamations.

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

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