CORONAVIRUS

Sioux City police to ticket violators of governor's partial mask mandate

Medical workers talk to people Thursday lined up for a COVID-19 test at the Test Iowa site at 5755 Willow Creek Dr. SW i
Medical workers talk to people Thursday lined up for a COVID-19 test at the Test Iowa site at 5755 Willow Creek Dr. SW in Cedar Rapids. This week, Linn County supervisors instituted a mask mandate, which includes all the cities in the county. Johnson County has had a similar mandate in place since August. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

SIOUX CITY — Mayor Bob Scott is warning Sioux City residents that police officers will start citing individuals and businesses that fail to comply with Gov. Kim Reynolds’ new public health orders designed to slow COVID-19’s spread.

“That’s not our intent to go out and write 100 tickets Friday night for people gathering,” Scott told the Journal on Thursday. “That’s not what we want to do. We just want people to comply with the governor’s latest proclamation.”

Linn County and Johnson County also have mask mandates requiring people to wear a face coverings when indoors in public places and outdoors when unable to stay 6 feet away from others. Violators can be cited and fined between $65 for the first violation and up to $625 for subsequent violations.

Reynolds’ latest orders, in effect through Dec. 10, require people to wear a face covering when they’re indoors in public places and when they’re outdoors if they’re closer than 6 feet to others.

The orders also limit indoor gatherings to 15 people and to 30 people outdoors. Bars and restaurants must close at 10 p.m.

Iowa has the third-highest rate of COVID-19 spread in the country, according to the White House Corona Virus Task Force. It classifies all 99 Iowa counties as being in the “red zone” for severe spread of the virus.

In Sioux City, the mayor initially said he didn’t think police had the authority to ticket violators. But after discussions with police and the governor’s staff, “there are some things we do have the ability to do,” he said.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

As of Thursday, 91 people were hospitalized in Sioux City with the virus. Both hospitals in the community issued statements supporting the mask mandates.

Though Reynolds’ orders applies to all buildings open to the public, Sioux City, in a news release, specifically implored “patrons of bars and restaurants to be respectful and to not violate the provisions placed on them,” warning “failure to do so may impact their continued ability to operate.”

Complaints about violations will be investigated, the news release said.

The goal of the city and police is “to work with our residents and businesses to ensure compliance,” the news release stated. “Our end goal is to educate residents and businesses on the proclamation in order to maintain voluntarily compliance.”

If voluntary compliance cannot be achieved, police will work with the Woodbury County attorney, the Iowa Alcohol Beverages Division and the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals “to enforce all aspects of the proclamation.”

Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller said his department will send an officer, if one is available, to investigate a complaint, but he said the Woodbury County Attorney’s Office will decide whether to prosecute violators.

“When asked, I’m sure most people are going to do the right thing,” Mueller said. “In cases of individuals in public buildings, the proprietor is probably going to be asked that they be removed.” When a business is not complying, Mueller said an officer might make a referral to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division or other agencies that govern that business’ practices.

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 subscribe. Your subscription will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

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 subscribe. Your subscription will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.