REGIONAL—Wearing masks in public places in N'West Iowa will become mandatory for the time being, according to a statewide mask mandate Gov. Reynolds announced during an address Monday, Nov. 16.
The proclamation, which goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, and will go through Dec. 10, requires masks be worn in indoor places that are open to the public in situations when people not of the same household cannot socially distance at least 6 feet for 15 minutes or longer.
Reynolds’ proclamation further restricts social, community, business and leisure gatherings to 15 people indoors and 30 people outdoors for people who do not normally live or work together.
Those limitations also apply to wedding receptions, family gatherings, conventions and other nonessential gatherings. They do not however apply to gatherings that occur during the ordinary course of business or government.
The new measures also prohibit all youth and adult sports gatherings, with the exception of high school, college and professional sports. Spectators at sporting events that are allowed must wear masks and are limited to two people for each high school athlete, performer or competitor. They also must maintain 6 feet of social distancing between each group of spectators.
New measures also are in place for restaurants and bars. Those include:
- Masks are required of patrons unless they are seated.
- Groups of no more than eight people are allowed unless they are all in the same household.
- Six feet of social distancing must be maintained between groups.
- Such establishments must close by 10 p.m. and cannot reopen until at least 6 a.m. the next day. They can however continue drive-thru, carryout or delivery services during that period.
The new measures regarding mask usage do not apply to churches or other religious or spiritual gatherings, which still can take place. However, places of worship or religious gatherings should implement reasonable measures to ensure social distancing and increased hygiene practices to curb the spread of COVID-19.
At health-care facilities, inpatient elective procedures must be reduced by 50 percent capacity of the number of beds used for such procedures on average during September.
Reynolds said during her address she did not want to implement the increased public-health policies but cited the worsening of the pandemic in the state as her reason for doing so.
“The pandemic in Iowa is worse than it has ever been,” Reynolds said. “Over the last two weeks, there have been more than 52,000 new cases of the virus in Iowa.”
She also said the number of Iowans in the hospital as a result of the virus has doubled to the point where about one out of four hospital patients in the state has COVID-19.
“If our health-care system exceeds capacity, it’s not just COVID-19 we’ll be fighting,” Reynolds said. “Every Iowan who needs medical care will be put at risk.”
Note: This is a developing story. Read more about it in the Nov. 21 print edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.