Iowa City and Coralville announced on Tuesday an end to their city-wide mask mandates. In written statements, both cities cited the revised guidance issued by the CDC last week stating that people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or engage in social distancing even while indoors to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” according to the agency.
The federal government still mandates the use of masks on public transportation, so people riding city buses will still be required to cover their faces.
People not yet fully vaccinated are still encouraged to wear face masks and practice social distancing.
“I am grateful for the vaccine and the patience and precautions that our community demonstrated during the challenges we endured over the last year,” Coralville Mayor John Lundell said in the statement announcing the removal of his city’s mask mandate. “I look forward to resuming activities with friends and family and encourage others to continue to be responsible and become vaccinated so our progress against COVID-19 continues.”
In its statement, Iowa City noted that COVID-19 vaccines are still not approved for children below the age of 12, and the use of the Pfizer vaccine for those 12 to 15 was only approved last week. Therefore, “the CDC and the City recommend that all facilities and events featuring a large K-12 audience should maintain their current mask-wearing and social distancing practices.”
Iowa City also recommended that anyone who feels more comfortable wearing a mask continue to do so.
“Residents should respect the policies of businesses, hospitals and medical facilities, and events that may require mask-wearing,” according to the city’s statement. “The individual choices of residents to wear masks should also be respected, as many Iowa City residents wore masks in public before the City’s mask mandate.”
Cedar Rapids largely eliminated its mask mandate on Friday, although masks will still be required in the city’s public library, and because of the federal mandate, on public transportation.
Mayor Bruce Teague issued Iowa City’s mask mandate in July, as the number of new cases of the virus in Johnson County were spiking. Teague acted after Gov. Kim Reynolds repeatedly refused requests from local officials to issue a statewide mask mandate or allow local governments to do so.
Coralville issued its mask mandate on Nov. 14. Two days later, Reynolds introduced a limited statewide mask mandate, explaining in a televised address, “the pandemic in Iowa is worse than it’s ever been.”
The governor rescinded her mandate in February. Notably, Reynolds did not consult the Iowa Department of Public Health before deciding to remove the limited statewide mask mandate.
As state and local governments have revising their mask policies to reflect the new guidance from the CDC, businesses have begun dropping face covering requirements. On Tuesday, Hy-Vee announced it has eliminated its company policy requiring face masks, and customers and employees who are fully vaccinated may go maskless if local ordinances permit it.
The CDC considers a person to be fully vaccinated two weeks after their final dose of vaccine.
When announcing the revised guidance on May 13, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the change in masking recommendations was based “on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines and our understanding of how the virus spreads.”
Walensky did caution that the situation may change depending on the success of vaccination efforts or changes in the virus.
“This past year has shown us that this virus can be unpredictable,” she said.
As of Tuesday, approximately 50 percent of Johnson County residents were fully vaccinated, according to IDPH.