Nearly everyone in Cedar Rapids is now required to wear a face covering in public, according to a proclamation signed by Mayor Brad Hart on Wednesday.
“For several months, I have been encouraging, even begging, for the voluntary use of masks by all residents in public in order to protect our residents and get us back to our normal lives more quickly,” Hart said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we have continued to see an increase of cases throughout Iowa, making a mask mandate more critical than ever to slow the spread in our community.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds and Attorney General Tom Miller have said local governments are not permitted to create face-covering mandates unless the governor authorizes them to do so. Iowa City, Muscatine, Mount Vernon and Johnson County have gone against this and have each taken their own approach to passing a mask mandate.
The Linn County Board of Supervisors passed a proclamation in early August urging Reynolds to allow cities and counties “to enact localized response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” including mandating and enforcing the use of face coverings. Hart, along with 10 other mayors in the county, backed the proclamation.
Iowa is the only state with no state-approved mask requirement, according to Masks4All, a volunteer organization advocating for mask-wearing. The other 49 states either have a statewide mask requirement or some state-endorsed mask requirements at the local level.
Iowa is a COVID-19 hotspot in the United States. Cases are increasing faster than any other state in the country — or anywhere else in the world, according to the New York Times. Only the territory of Guam has a higher seven-day average than Iowa.
Reynolds has repeatedly said she trusts Iowans to make their own choices of whether or not to wear a mask. The Storm Lake Times reported on Tuesday that when Reynolds was asked if she plans to issue a statewide mandate given the increase in cases, her response was, “Oh no, I’m not doing that. I think I’ve made it very clear. Nope, not going to happen. It’s just not going to happen.”
Face coverings are required in public places in Cedar Rapids under four circumstances, according to Hart’s proclamation. Face coverings include a cloth mask, surgical mask, plastic shield or similar covering that covers the nose and mouth.
• When outside one’s residence or dwelling place and unable to stay at least six (6) feet away from other persons
• When inside any indoor public settings or place of public accommodations as defined in the Cedar Rapids Municipal Code, including Chapter 69, and also including without limitation all retail stores, restaurants, bars, taverns and other accommodations
• When in any other public settings that are not one’s residence or dwelling place with persons who do not live in the same residence or dwelling place
• When using public transportation or private car service (including taxis, ride share, or carpooling)
There are 12 exceptions listed in the proclamation, setting out when individuals don’t need to wear a face mask, as well as who is exempt from the order.
• Persons under 2 years of age
• Any person who has trouble breathing, is currently on oxygen therapy or on a ventilator
• Any unconscious or incapacitated person or any person who is otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance
• Any person who has been told in writing by a medical, legal, or behavioral health professional not to wear face coverings when that writing is carried on the person not using an otherwise required face covering unless such inquiry is prohibited by Federal or State law
• Any person actively engaged in a public safety role, including but not limited to law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel
• Any person traveling in a personal vehicle alone or with members of the same household
• Any person who is alone or in the presence of only members of the same household
• Any person exercising at moderate or high intensity (e.g. jogging or biking)
• Any person seated at a food establishment when actually engaged in the process of eating or drinking
• Any person actually obtaining a service that would require temporary removal of the persons face covering (e.g. dental, orthodontic or medical services)
• Any person for whom a face covering would be violative of a sincerely held religious belief or doctrine
• When Federal or State law prohibits wearing a face covering or requires the removal of the face covering
While Hart said in the proclamation that he believes most people in Cedar Rapids will follow the proclamation, there is an enforcement component to the mandate. The Cedar Rapids Police Department will be educating individuals about the mandate, but “as a last resort” can issue misdemeanor citations to anyone not complying.
Businesses are also required to deny service or entry to individuals not wearing face coverings. Businesses must have signs at the entrance informing customers of their “legal obligation to wear a face covering,” according to the proclamation.