Violation of Johnson County mask mandate to be punishable by simple misdemeanor

Johnson County supervisors will pass the Board of Health’s updated face-covering mandate, which will make the regulation punishable by a simple misdemeanor.


Emily Wangen

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors meets on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. The Supervisors discussed budget items for the year.

Caleb McCullough, Summer Editor

Johnson County’s mask mandate is set to become enforceable and will be punishable by a simple misdemeanor.

Johnson County’s Board of Supervisors signaled in a work session Wednesday that they would vote to pass the Board of Health’s updated resolution that makes the mandate enforceable.

The supervisors passed a resolution on July 23 that required masks, but it was without legal recourse until Tuesday night, when the Johnson County Board of Health passed an updated resolution that included a section about punishment.

The board will vote on the measure in its meeting on Tuesday.

The supervisors, as well as the resolution itself, said it is not meant to be punitive, but when it’s passed it will carry a possibility of a fine for violation of the mandate. The first offense will be punishable by the minimum fine for a simple misdemeanor — $105 — and subsequent offenses can be punished with up to $855, the maximum fine.

“We very clearly said that we didn’t want to enforce this by misdemeanor, that it wasn’t to be punitive,” Supervisor Janelle Rettig said. “It says it exactly in the ordinance, that it’s not designed to be punitive.”

The regulation mirrors the mandate in Iowa City, requiring every person in Johnson County to wear a face covering in all indoor public spaces, including grocery stores, pharmacies, retail stores, and schools. Masks or face coverings are also required outside if maintaining a distance of six feet is not possible.

Face coverings are not required when exercising, eating or drinking at a bar or restaurant, or where it’s prohibited by federal or state law. People younger than two years old or those with a medical condition preventing them from wearing a mask are also exempt.

Face covering mandates are cropping up in localities around Iowa, although Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Attorney General Tom Miller’s office have routinely stated that cities and counties don’t have the authority to impose them because it is outside the bounds of the governor’s disaster emergency proclamation.

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague issued a proclamation mandating face coverings in the city in July. As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the Iowa City police have not issued any citations for violations of the requirement.