Iowa courts to require masks contrary to wider state policy
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court on Friday signed an order making masks mandatory in areas controlled by the courts, a contrast to a state law that bans similar mandates in public schools where children have resumed classes amid rising numbers of coronavirus cases.
The order signed by Chief Justice Susan Christensen said all people entering court-controlled areas must wear a face covering regardless of the person’s vaccination status. “This requirement applies statewide and does not depend on a particular county’s or area’s positivity rate or transmission status,” Christensen wrote.
She said the court reviewed recent revisions to the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding mask wearing in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
On Friday, all but one of Iowa’s 99 counties were in the those categories as the state experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations to a level not seen since January.
The order requiring masks contradicts Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ long-term policy against mask mandates. In May, she signed a law that bans cities, counties and school districts from requiring masks.
Reynolds has been put on notice by U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who said in a letter last week that the Iowa law is “against science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19″ and is contrary to CDC guidance for preventing the spread of the virus.”
Reynold lashed out at President Joe Biden after receiving the letter and suggested the CDC has no scientific proof that masks work to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Asked Friday why judges, juries and lawyers need such protection but not children and teachers, Reynolds’ spokesman Pat Garrett responded: “The state Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t change the legislation the governor signed into law. She believes wearing a mask should be a choice not a mandate.”
The courts have been asked to weigh in on the issue. On Thursday, Reynolds and other state officials were sued by a Council Bluffs woman with small children seeking an order requiring the state to issue a universal mask mandate for all students and school personnel until a voluntary plan can be implemented that segregates mask-wearing students and staff from those who opt not to wear masks.
Iowa is among nine states that have banned schools from implementing universal mask mandates.
The seven-day moving average of cases in Iowa has surpassed 1,000 a day and has been increasing since late June. An update Wednesday from the Iowa Department of Public Health indicated that more young people are becoming infected. In the past seven days, 17% of the state’s positive tests were among those under age 17, up from 13%. Hospitalizations increased nearly 23% in the past week with 498 people hospitalized.
Some businesses, including hospitals, also have been mandating vaccines. The CDC reported Friday that Iowa had 51.4% of the population fully vaccinated, which ranked 23rd in the nation.
About 200 people protested vaccine mandates Friday outside MercyOne Medical Center in Des Moines, the Des Moines Register reported.