Coralville and North Liberty are joining Iowa City and Cedar Rapids in requiring everyone entering city-owned buildings to wear face masks, regardless of their vaccination status. The requirements will take effect Wednesday, the two cities announced in written statements on Tuesday.
Because of the rapid spread of the highly infectious Delta variant, the CDC updated its guidance regarding face masks on July 28, recommending that all persons, even those fully vaccinated against COVID-19, should wear masks in indoor public locations if there is “high” or “substantial” virus spread in their county. The agency also recommended all staff, students and visitors to schools wear masks, regardless of vaccination status or the level of virus spread in the community.
According to the CDC’s latest county-level data, Johnson County is experiencing a substantial level of COVID-19 spread. The agency rates the level of virus spread in 91 of Iowa’s 99 counties as either substantial or high.
In May, Gov. Reynolds signed a bill into law that prohibits schools from requiring masks, and prohibits local governments from creating mask mandates stricter than whatever mandate the state government has in place. Reynolds, who said the new CDC guidelines are “not grounded in reality or common sense,” has made it clear she will not allow local governments or school boards to create their own mask mandates.
The new law, however, does not forbid a local government from requiring masks be worn inside buildings it owns, and a growing number of cities have implemented the requirement as the number of new COVID-19 cases and the rate of hospitalizations of people infected with the virus increases in the state. The Linn County Board of Supervisors imposed a mask mandate in county buildings that began on Monday. The Johnson County Board of Supervisors has a discussion of a mandate on the agenda for its meeting this week.
The exemption in the law that allows local governments to require masks in their buildings does not include school districts, which are still prohibited from requiring masks, even though children under the age of 12 cannot yet be vaccinated.