DES MOINES, Iowa – Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie on Saturday said despite Gov. Kim Reynolds lifting the statewide mask mandate, Des Moines’ mask mandate will remain in place as a safeguard against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The governor’s order lifting mask and social distancing requirements takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
“The governor’s decision is confusing and can’t be rationalized with the number of positive cases we continue to see across the state and here in Polk County,” Cownie said. “With an alarmingly more transmissible version of the virus now detected in Iowa, it is more important than ever that our residents and visitors follow the advice of medical experts, keep social distance and whenever out in public, wear a mask.”
On Aug. 26, 2020, Mayor Cownie signed an emergency proclamation mandating face coverings in public places whenever proper social distance cannot be maintained. The mask mandate took effect as the spread of the coronavirus surpassed 58,000 positive cases statewide with nearly 12,000 in Polk County.
As of Saturday, Iowa has reported 323,872 positive cases of COVID-19 and 5,108 deaths. Polk County has the most recorded cases in Iowa with 48,903 and 513 coronavirus deaths. The number of positive cases has continually declined in Polk County since November. The current seven-day average positivity rate in Polk County is 9 percent, while the 14-day average is 11 percent.
“While we are very slowly getting Iowans vaccinated, we have months to go before we will see significant progress,” Cownie added. “I know that the past 11 months have been challenging, however, our mitigation efforts have been extremely important and must continue if we are to persevere.”
According to the Mayor’s August proclamation, all persons in the City of Des Moines shall wear a face covering such as a cloth mask, surgical mask, plastic shield, or similar covering that covers their nose and mouth when in a public place in all of the following circumstances unless as excepted below:
- When outside one’s residence or dwelling place and unable to stay at least six (6) feet away from other persons
- When inside any indoor public settings or place of public accommodations as defined in City of Des Moines Municipal Code Chapter 62, including without limitation all retail stores, restaurants, bars, taverns, and other accommodations
- When in any other public settings that are not one’s residence or dwelling place with persons who do not live in the same residence or dwelling place;
- When using public transportation or private car service (including taxis, rideshare, or carpooling).
No organization that is a public accommodation of any sort, including without limitation, a business that is open to the public, may provide service to a customer or allow a customer to enter its premises unless the customer is wearing a face covering as required by this Proclamation, and such organizations must post signs at entrance(s) instructing customers of their legal obligation to wear a face-covering while inside pursuant to this Proclamation.
The provisions shall not apply to the following persons:
- Persons under 2 years of age
- Any person who has trouble breathing, is currently on oxygen therapy or on a ventilator;
- Any unconscious or incapacitated person or any person who is otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance
- Any person who has been told in writing by a medical, legal, or behavioral health professional not to wear face coverings when that writing is carried on the person not using an otherwise required face covering unless such inquiry is prohibited by Federal or State law
- Any person actively engaged in a public safety role, including but not limited to law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel;
- Any person traveling in a personal vehicle alone or with members of the same household
- Any person who is alone or in the presence of only members of the same household
- Any person exercising at moderate or high intensity (e.g. jogging or biking)
- Any person seated at a food establishment when actually engaged in the process of eating or drinking
- Any person actually obtaining a service that would require temporary removal of the persons face covering (e.g. dental, orthodontic or medical services)
- Any person for whom a face covering would be violative of a sincerely held religious belief or doctrine
- When Federal or State law prohibits wearing a face covering or requires the removal of the face covering
As Cownie stated last summer, it remains unlikely Des Moines Police will issue citations to violators, instead they will continue to stress the health and safety behind the mandate and encourage the public to wear face coverings.
Since August, the City has distributed more than 50,000 face coverings through Des Moines Parks and Recreation, Des Moines Public Library, DART, Blank Park Zoo, YMCA of Greater Des Moines, Central Iowa Shelter & Services, Des Moines Botanical Garden as well as various community and faith-based organizations.