CORONAVIRUS

Iowa needs to require masks, state's medical leaders tell Gov. Reynolds

Voluntary efforts not enough, leadership says in letter sent to governor Monday

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds arrives to update the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference, Tues
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds arrives to update the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak during a news conference, Tuesday, July 7, 2020, in Urbandale, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Coalitions representing thousands of Iowa’s health care providers have sent a letter to Gov. Kim Reynolds asking her to issue a statewide face mask mandate for all Iowans.

In the letter sent on Monday, health care leadership stated that ongoing voluntary efforts to flatten the curve and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus — which surpassed more than 42,000 total cases over the weekend — “have failed to yield sufficient progress.”

As a result, they are asking Reynolds to require all Iowans 2 years and older wear a mask or other facial covering while in public, citing a study from the University of Iowa College of Public Health that found consistent, widespread use of cloth masks “will dramatically slow the spread of COVID-19.”

“It is now apparent that stronger measures are necessary to better protect our fellow Iowans,” said Dr. Brian Privett, president of the Iowa Medical Society. “The Iowa Medical Society, along with this coalition of health care organizations, call on the governor to immediately implement a statewide mask order to slow the spread of the virus, to ensure that our state is able to safely reopen and stay open, and most importantly to prevent additional deaths as a result of COVID-19.”

Medical and health care organizations that signed the letter include the Iowa Public Health Association, the Iowa Academy of Family Physicians, Iowa Association of County Medical Examiners, the Iowa Primary Care Association and the Iowa Pharmacy Association. These organizations represent more than 12,000 physicians, clinicians, pharmacists, health care facilities, public health professionals and providers-in-training, according to a news release.

A full list of signatures, as well as the letter, can be found on the Iowa Medical Society’s website.

The Iowa Medical Society stated in its letter COVID-19 infections have risen 64 percent from June 20, reaching daily totals not seen since the height of the pandemic in May.

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While Reynolds has strengthened her appeals in recent weeks for Iowans to “do their part,” she has resisted mandating the public health measure as a part of the state’s COVID-19 response.

“Gov. Reynolds encourages Iowans who are interacting with others where social distancing is impossible to wear masks. But she does not believe a government-mandated mask mandate is appropriate,” Pat Garrett, the governor’s spokesman, said in an email.

However, the Iowa Medical Society wrote that “voluntary efforts have proven to not be enough.”

“Health care facilities and community businesses who have attempted to establish their own masking policies have faced backlash and enforcement challenges in the absence of a statewide policy,” according to the letter.

On Monday, the Linn County Board of Supervisors considered a proclamation to require masks and other facial coverings in the county, inviting mayors to sign on as supporters.

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague issued a proclamation requiring face masks in public spaces earlier this month, citing emergency powers granted to mayors under Iowa Code. He was the second mayor in the state to issue such an order, following the mayor of Muscatine.

Last week, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors followed Iowa City in passing its own face mask mandate, but acknowledged that its mandate was not enforceable.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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