Staff Columnist

Mask mandates are enforcable if you enforce them

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)

Gov. Kim Reynolds refuses to issue a statewide mask mandate because she says it can’t be enforced. But it can’t be enforced because she won’t enforce one. It’s this kind of innovative and illogical leadership that allowed Iowa to climb to the top of charts of COVID cases per capita in the United States.

Say you are transparent with data when your former spokesperson is suing you for violating whistleblower laws and withholding information from the press. Say you are doing everything you can to mitigate the effects of the virus when all bars and restaurants and bowling centers are open and drunk college students are licking each other in the street. Say Iowans need to learn to live with the virus that already has taken nearly 1,200 lives. Say a mask mandate is unenforceable, because you refuse to enforce it.

In the vacuous hole of leadership, Iowa’s mayors and county supervisors have tentatively stepped up with their own mask mandates. Johnson County, Mount Vernon, Muscatine and now Cedar Rapids have all subverted the governor and issued mandates.


"Right now, asking our leaders to lead feels like being a 5-year-old asking for a unicorn and being told what you want doesn’t exist."


These mandates largely are gently worded, because Reynolds has denied cities and counties the authority to enforce.

Cedar Rapids’ mandate comes nearly a month after the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane destroyed the town, and people diligently have been cleaning, helping one another remove debris and giving each other COVID-19. Because of that, the coronavirus is settling in like a mother-in-law visiting for the holidays — she won’t leave and you can’t escape.

The mandate comes late, but at least it’s something. And it counts as a bold move for the mayor who has led the city’s slow disaster response and who can forget Iowa’s own Fyre fest — NewBo Evolve? But still, it’s something and something is better than the pile of nothings coming from the state Capitol.

But it also puts Iowa’s second-largest city in line with White House Task Force recommendations, which earlier this week recommended that the governor issue a mask mandate, close bars and limit restaurant capacity in 61 counties it classified as being in the “red” and “yellow” zones.

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Again, the defense of no mask mandate is that she can’t enforce it. But she can. It’s unclear whether our governor has heard of other cities, states or even other countries who have managed to issue mask mandates and slow the spread of the virus.

In New York even, that bastion of liberal communism, they have a mask mandate, an infection rate of 1 percent, and I hear that the streets are filled with people eating brunch on the patio. And the food at those restaurants doesn’t come with a side of COVID-19, or the risk of being put on a ventilator.

I miss brunch. But what I miss more is having a functioning state. Right now, asking our leaders to lead feels like being a 5-year-old asking for a unicorn and being told what you want doesn’t exist.

lyz.lenz@thegazette.com; 319-368-8513

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