Iowa City imposes mask mandate, UI to continue to follow Board of Regents recommendations

Iowa City will once again mandate masks starting at 11:59 p.m on Thursday, but the UI says it will continue to follow Board of Regents policy recommending, but not requiring masks.


Jerod Ringwald

Mayor Bruce Teague speaks during an Iowa City City Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 17.

Rylee Wilson and Josie Fischels

Iowa City will once again mandate masks, defying a law signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in May that bans cities and counties from requiring masks. 

In a livestreamed address Thursday evening, Mayor Bruce Teague declared a state of civil emergency in the city and announced the requirement to the city, stating that every person in the city must wear a face covering in any public place, including stores, restaurants and bars, public school buildings, and University of Iowa buildings. 

“The delta variant has reached our community, and as the positive cases continue to grow, we are now also faced with an influx of students arriving in our community from around the world, as well as the beginning of a new school year for our local youth,” Teague said in his remarks. 

The order goes into place at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday. 

Despite the mandate, the University of Iowa will maintain its stance to not require masks this fall. In an email to the Daily Iowan, UI spokesperson Jeneane Beck said the university will continue to follow state law and the guidance of the Board of Regents, which recommends, but does not require masks on campus. 

“As a state agency, we are expected to comply with state law and our governing body, the Board of Regents, State of Iowa,” Beck wrote in an email to the DI.

Beck said that the UI strongly encourages the use of face masks in classrooms and during in-person office hours. 

The mandate makes Iowa City the first city in Iowa to re-impose a mask policy. The city lifted its prior mandate on May 18, revising the guidance to state that fully vaccinated people would no longer be required to wear a mask indoors.

In May, Reynolds signed a bill prohibiting Iowa cities, counties, school boards, and superintendents from mandating masks. 

“It’s against the law and it’s not enforceable,” Reynolds’ spokesperson Pat Garrett wrote in a statement to the DI about Iowa City’s mandate. “Covid-19 has been around for over a year, Iowans know how to protect themselves and their families.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone, regardless of their vaccination status, should wear a mask in indoor spaces in communities with substantial or high spread of the virus. Johnson County remains an area with high COVID-19 transmission, according to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker. The CDC recommends mask-wearing in areas of high transmission, regardless of vaccination status.