Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds: masks required at some public events

In an effort to reduce the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Iowa and the strain on hospitals, Iowa Gov. KimReynolds issued a mandate — taking effect at midnight — that requires people gathering with more than 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors to wear masks and practice social distancing.


Katina Zentz

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during the Condition of the State address at the Iowa State Capitol on Tuesday, January 14, 2020.

Lillian Poulsen, News Reporter

Starting at midnight, masks will be required in large-group settings in the state, the first statewide mask-requiring measure Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has issued since the start of the pandemic.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Reynolds announced the new mandate among a slew of mitigation efforts issued in a proclamation to reduce the number of positive COVID-19 cases and ease the strain on hospitals. The proclamation will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 10.

The proclamation bans all social, community, leisure, and sporting events with more than 25 people indoors and 100 outdoors unless all people over the age of two are wearing masks. 

The number of Iowans in the hospital because of COVID-19 has skyrocketed in recent weeks. A record-breaking 1,135 Iowans were in the hospital Tuesday, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard

“These trends cannot continue, and it’s critical that all Iowans do everything within their power to stop the spread of the virus now,” Reynolds said. “The virus is spreading easily between people as they gather together in groups or go about their normal activities, especially when preventative measures like masking and social distancing aren’t being followed.”

Groups of individuals who attend events listed in the proclamation together are limited to eight people, unless they live in the same household, and all groups must remain six feet apart. This applies to bars and restaurants, where patrons will be required to be seated to consume food and drinks.

Only two spectators per athlete or participant are permitted to attend youth indoor sporting events. Masks are now required to be worn by employees and customers at businesses that provide personal services, including salons, tattooing, and tanning. Reynolds also encourages employers to have more people working from home if possible.

This doesn’t apply to schools where more than 25 students may be gathered in hallways or classrooms or religious gatherings, she said.

If Iowans don’t follow guidelines for masking, social distancing, and number of individuals, they will receive a simple misdemeanor charge. City police departments will be helping to enforce this. The Department of Inspections and Appeals – the Alcoholic Beverage Division will enforce regulations at restaurants and bars.

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague implemented a mask mandate on July 21 and renewed it on Sept. 14. Previously, Reynolds and the Iowa Attorney General’s office stated that cities aren’t able to require face coverings, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan. 

Reynolds’ mask mandate requires all Iowans to wear a mask when gathering with more than the allowed number of people.

This proclamation was put in place to combat the rise in the number of hospitalizations because of COVID-19 in Iowa, Reynolds said.

On Monday, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics sounded the alarm on COVID-19 hospitalizations, asking employees to work from home to preserve staff.

“The overall increased patient volume is stressing our health-care system and it is putting our capacity at risk,” Reynolds said. “While beds are still available for patient care, staffing them is becoming increasingly challenging as some health-care workers may be sick, in quarantine, or caring for other family members. This situation has the potential to impact any Iowan who may need care for any reason, whether for COVID-19 or for some other serious medical condition.”

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, Reynolds provided $28 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Funding to Iowa’s hospitals and county public health departments. Reynolds said they are working to increase the amount of staff members at hospitals.

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Chief Executive Officer Suresh Gunasekaran earlier this fall, encouraged Iowans to rethink holiday plans as they prepare for the winter months. Reynolds recommended people reschedule these gatherings or quarantine for two weeks after. 

In an email with The Daily Iowan, UIHC Hospital Epidemiologist Jorge Salinas said these public health measures were needed months ago.

“I thank the Governor for starting to implement public health measures. However, given the severity of the situation, we need additional measures in place immediately,” Salinas wrote in an email to the DI. “The mitigation measures being implemented are more appropriate for when the incidence is low to try to keep it that way.”

Reynolds said Iowans can eliminate the strain on hospitals by following safety measures. 

“The decisions each of us make over the next few weeks may impact someone’s life,” Reynolds said. “It’s up to all of us to determine if our actions will protect someone or put them at risk. This is the time when personal responsibility also means personal sacrifice.”

Reynolds said Iowa has the capacity to test 6,000 people per day through the State Hygienics Lab — based in Iowa City — with Test Iowa. On Monday the lab hit an all-time high and ran 6,203 tests through the Test Iowa lab. 

From Nov. 1 to Nov. 7 there were 160,146 Iowans tested, which is about 23,000 per day, Reynolds said. 

In order to stop the continued spread of the virus and the strain on our hospitals, Reynolds called on Iowans to take personal responsibility for stopping the spread.

“We all have to buckle down and take this seriously,” Reynolds said. “Help us by doing your part — talk to your family members, talk about what we all can do to help us bring down the numbers and help bend the curve so we can protect our hospitals, our schools, and our businesses. We can do it.”

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