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Reynolds acknowledges pushback against mask mandate

JOHNSTON — Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says mask wearing in public places is the “responsible thing to do,” but not every situation requires a face covering.

Reynolds issued a public health proclamation last requiring masks in these specific circumstances: when someone is inside a public space for at least 15 minutes and unable to stay six feet away from others.

“So if you’re running in and you’re not coming in contact — you can social distance, then you don’t need to wear one and again Iowans will be responsible,” Reynolds said Tuesday. “If you have doubt or you’re not sure, I would say: ‘Wear a mask. Err on the side of caution.’”

Last week the Centers for Disease Control issued a briefing, citing research that indicates cloth face masks prevent the distribution of droplets and protect the person wearing the mask as well as those around them. Reynolds described mask wearing is part of a series of steps Iowans can take to slow the spread of the virus, with the “ultimate goal” of keeping businesses and schools open. During a news conference today she answered a question about the push back on mask mandates.

“There’s science on both sides and you know that,” Reynolds said. “If you look you can find whatever you want to support wherever you’re at and so what I’m saying is let’s do everything we can. Everybody needs to step up and help us stop the spread and these are some things you can do and they’re relatively simple and if we do them now and really buckle down and double down, you know, hopefully when we get to Christmas, we’ll be able to gather again with our families.”

After the news conference, a spokesman for the governor said Reynolds believes the science is settled and masks are effective.

According to the Iowa State Education Association, a third of Iowa school districts do not require mask wearing inside school buildings. Reynolds said that means “the majority” are requiring masks and the rest, she said, “will adjust” as they see the numbers of Covid cases rise within their community.

“Some are closing a building. Some are going virtually for a week until they can get their educators or their staff through the quarantine period or through the point where they can come back to school,” Reynolds said. “So right now, we’re going to stay where we’re at with that and if we have to make adjustments, we will.”

Covid is now the third leading cause of death in Iowa, behind only cancer and heart disease. More than 2000 Iowans have died from the virus since March.

“If we all don’t step up and do what we need to do to help manage the virus, it’s going to get worse,” Reynolds said. “And we’re just seeing that.”

Reynolds will “reassess” the mitigation strategies she’s ordered in a week and, if hospital capacity continues to be an issue, she may issue new orders. However, Reynolds indicated shutting down all Iowa schools, as she did at the start of the pandemic, would be near the end of her action list.

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