Johnson County residents urge Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to require face coverings

Amid a recent spike of coronavirus cases in Johnson County and across the state, residents are urging state government officials to mandate a face covering policy and prevent spread to vulnerable populations.


Jenna Galligan

Photo Illustration by Jenna Galligan

Lillian Poulsen, News Reporter

Amid a recent spike in coronavirus cases in Johnson County, community members and local officials are calling upon Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to require people to wear face coverings in public.

The number of cases in Johnson County has reached new highs, especially among college-aged people. As of Thursday, positive cases in Johnson County totaled 1,226.

Local government officials, concerned citizens, and public-health officials are urging people to voluntarily wear face coverings to flatten the curve. Face coverings protect people from the spread of the coronavirus, Community Health Manager of Johnson County Public Health Sam Jarvis said.

“The idea is that the face covering — covering our nose and mouth — prevents respiratory droplets as we’re speaking and breathing,” Jarvis said. “Really for this to work, we’ve got to have everyone wearing masks in public.”

Iowa City City Councilor Janice Weiner is encouraging people on social media and local and state officials to follow the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“We don’t have a cure for this,” Weiner said. “We don’t have treatments that really help to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. What we know helps are the basics — social distancing, wash your hands, and wear a face covering.”

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement recently launched a #MaskUpIA campaign, which encourages people to wear face coverings. The group started a petition to urge Gov. Kim Reynolds to mandate a face covering policy. Since the launch of the petition July 1, more than 2,300 Iowans have signed it, said Katie Biechler, a member of the organization.

“The reality is, we need a universal face covering policy from our elected leaders to be able to encourage mask wearing,” Biechler said. “If Governor Reynolds isn’t going to pass a universal face covering policy, then we need local elected officials to do that.”

At least 19 states have implemented statewide mask mandates, and many localities are requiring them in other states.

Weiner said Reynolds won’t allow local government officials to mandate face coverings in their cities and counties. She is urging Gov. Reynolds to reconsider, so Johnson County officials could put protective measures in place.

Despite the spike in cases for young people, some believe only the older populations are likely to contract the disease, Jarvis said. Jarvis said people like Reynolds think that young people can ignore the guidelines because they are likely to experience mild symptoms.

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“I think some speculate that since our younger crowd experiences mild symptoms that it might be kind of business as usual,” Jarvis said. “Please, please, please don’t think that. We’re certainly wanting to stress that if anyone’s ill to please stay home.”

If the virus isn’t contained among the younger population, it will spread to older and immunocompromised populations that are more at risk, Jarvis said.

Until there is a cure for the coronavirus, Weiner said people need to protect those around them by wearing a face covering and urging Reynolds to legally require it.

“People need to recognize that this isn’t magically going away. It is going to take time until we find appropriate therapies and until there’s a vaccine,” Weiner said. “Until then, we have to manage it, and we have to manage it with consideration for our fellow students, citizens, residents — understanding that none of us want to be the factor that causes someone else to get sick.”