CORONAVIRUS

Linn County Board of Health approves mask regulation requiring face masks in public

Regulation will move to Board of Supervisors to be ratified

(Dreamstime/TNS)
(Dreamstime/TNS)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Linn County Board of Health on Monday unanimously voted in favor of a regulation requiring face masks be worn in public.

The regulation calls for people living in or visiting Linn County to wear a face covering when in public and not able to stay 6 feet away from others.

“I think this one step in the right direction for Linn County. ... I am emphatically in support of the Board of Health passing a mask mandate,” board member and Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker said at the meeting.

The regulation, which must be ratified by the Linn County Board of Supervisors before going into effect, also calls for face coverings whenever inside any public settings, including grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, retail stores and schools.

The regulation states that the only exemptions are while traveling in a personal vehicle alone or with household members, exercising when following social distancing, eating or drinking while seated at a bar or food establishment, or obtaining a service that would require the removal of a mask, such as dental appointments.

The first offense for not wearing a face covering is recommended to be a minimum fine for a simple misdemeanor. For subsequent offenses, a fine up to the maximum for a simple misdemeanor is recommended.

“Public health agencies have in the code of Iowa the ability to implement regulations to keep citizens safe, and we are taking this approach with Public Health because the governor has severely restricted county Board of Supervisors from implementing an enforceable mask regulation,” Supervisor Ben Rogers told The Gazette.

Rogers said the earliest the supervisors could take up the regulation would be Nov. 23 or 24.

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He said supervisors are modeling the regulation on actions Johnson County supervisors took earlier this year.

Over the summer, the Johnson County health board adopted a similar measure to Linn County’s and called on its supervisors to do the same. In August, Johnson County attorney told the supervisors that a measure would be enforceable only if the health board adopted a resolution first.

The Johnson County supervisors ultimately approved the resolution, requiring masks in public places with fines for people who do not comply.

What other places have done

Also in August, the Linn County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation, backed by local mayors, calling on Gov. Kim Reynolds to allow local control in issuing mask mandates — something she has repeatedly said local officials do not have the legal authority to enact, though many have.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart signed an emergency proclamation Sept. 2 requiring face masks to be worn in public in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Marion Mayor Nick AbouAssaly issued a mask advisory, not a mandate, in October for the city, advising residents to wear masks in public spaces.

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague recently extended his emergency order requiring every person in Iowa City to wear a face covering in public spaces. The order originally was put into place in July, but was extended last Thursday to be in place through Jan. 15.

On Friday, Coralville Mayor John Lundell issued his own emergency proclamation requiring face coverings in public spaces.

Other cities that have mask mandates in Iowa include Des Moines, Mount Vernon, Dubuque and Muscatine.

Iowa’s Emergency Restrictions

Last week, Reynolds implemented new statewide emergency restrictions, including a mandate to wear masks at large public gatherings. Her proclamation, which started Nov. 11, is in effect for 30 days.

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For any such gathering of 10 people or more, there must be 6 feet of social distancing between groups. Groups are limited to eight people, unless members are from the same family.

If indoor events exceed 25 people or outdoor events exceed 100, all over age 2 must wear a mask except when eating or drinking.

Reynolds added that law officers are to “educate and inform” violators of her mask requirement before issuing simple misdemeanor citations.

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

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