As of 6 a.m. on Monday in Muscatine, Iowa, face coverings are required in public places as the city attempts to limit the spread of COVID-19. Mayor Diana Broderson issued a proclamation mandating face coverings on Sunday, citing provisions in the Iowa Constitution and state law that allow mayors to take steps to ensure public safety during emergencies.
“We look to our health authorities for answers and guidance to our questions for how do we slow or stop the spread of COVID-19 in Muscatine,” Broderson said during a news conference on the steps of Muscatine City Hall on Sunday. “The answer is the same one from all health professionals everywhere: we either don’t go in public or we wear face coverings when we do, unless we can social distance.”
The face coverings mandate is scheduled to last for six months. People who aren’t covering their nose and mouth with cloth face masks, plastic face shields or “multiple layers of fabric tied around the head” can be cited by city police officers for a municipal infraction and potentially face fines.
“Nobody is going to be hauled off to jail,” Broderson said after the news conference. “This will give our police officers a tool to use as they see fit, but our police officers know what they are doing and they will handle this like they handle every other thing.”
The news conference was cut short due to technical difficulties with its audio feed, and because members of the crowd of approximately 50 residents who gathered to hear the mayor repeatedly booed and shouted their opposition to the new mandate.
“I think she is overreaching,” Logan Hickman told the Muscatine Journal. “If she doesn’t stop we may have to recall her. She may think she is the queen bee of Muscatine, but this is not a monarchy and we don’t have to bow to her demands, especially when the governor said we are free to do what [we] want.”
Hickman came to the news conference carrying a white board listing the steps required to recall a mayor.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has repeatedly said she believes it should be left up to each person to decide whether or not they want to wear a face covering to help limit the spread of COVID-19. According to the Iowa Attorney General, city and county officials cannot not mandate public measures beyond what the governor specifies in her public health emergency orders.
“The governor has issued proclamations dealing with PPE, and her proclamations order Iowans to follow public health measures consistent with guidance issued by IDPH. IDPH guidance on cloth face coverings does not require their use,” Lynn Hicks, communications director for Attorney General Tom Miller, told Iowa Public Radio last week. “Therefore, a local regulation requiring masks would not be consistent with the governor’s declarations.”
Broderson has said she is aware of Miller’s position, but believes the the 1968 municipal home rule amendment to the Iowa Constitution gives her the authority to issue her proclamation.
According to the proclamation, face coverings must be worn in the following circumstances:
• Inside any building, including but not limited to, any business open to the public;
• Healthcare settings, including but not limited to a, hospital, medical clinic, laboratory; pharmacy, veterinary clinic, physician or dentist office, and blood bank;
• While in line waiting for or riding on public transit or any vehicle for hire;
• Outdoor areas, including but not limited to, public parks, trails, streets, sidewalks, lines for entry or exit for service, and recreation areas where a 6 foot social distance is not maintained between any non-household member at all times.
There are exceptions to the mandate, including for children under two, individuals with medical conditions that make wearing face coverings difficult and anyone “seated at a restaurant or other food or drink establishment when tables and are spaced at least 6 feet apart at all times.”
“How can we as a community not do everything that we can to save even one life or one business from closure, if we can?” Broderson said during the news conference.
“Muscatine is a city of people who care about each other, and who rise to the occasion when help is needed. I’m sorry if people are inconvenienced by this,” the mayor said. Members of the crowd loudly booed in response.
Before Broderson issued the proclamation on Sunday, Iowa was one of only four states that did not have any requirement to face coverings in public.