Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a proclamation extending the declaration of a public health emergency, as well as instituting new mitigation efforts as coronavirus infections continue to rise across the state.
Beginning at midnight Tuesday, a limited mask mandate will go into effect. Iowans will be required to wear masks in any social, community, recreational, leisure or sporting event held indoors with more than 25 people or held outdoors with more than 100 people. This does not apply to schools and religious gatherings.
Masks will also be required for both employees and customers in businesses providing personal services such as salons, barbershops, tanning salons, massage therapy and tattoo shops.
In addition to the limited mask mandate, group sizes at these events, as well as at bars, restaurants and recreational facilities such as bowling alleys and indoor playgrounds, are limited to eight people unless all individuals are members of the same household, and social distancing is still required.
Youth sports, including high school sports, are restricted to no more than two spectators per youth participant. The proclamation also orders employers to evaluate if more workers can work remotely and enable as many as possible to do so.
Reynolds again encouraged Iowans to do their part to help stop the spread of coronavirus, even if it means making hard choices, and stressed that she was balancing protecting lives and livelihoods.
“You can still eat in a restaurant, you can still go to a movie and work out at the gym, and in many states you can’t do that," Reynolds said. "Iowa is open for business, and we intend to keep it that way.”
Her press conference came as both positive cases and hospitalizations have been spiking across the state, with UnityPoint and MercyOne both saying that, while they do still have beds available, they are rapidly approaching or at capacity with regards to staffing.
Reynolds acknowledged the statewide positivity rate is now greater than 15 percent, which is the threshold her office set for which schools could request to move online, which several metro school districts have begun requesting this week.
Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education, said schools do have some flexibility in transitioning to remote learning, and that state approval is only needed if districts wish to move entire buildings or more online.
Reynolds also pointed to outbreaks in correctional facilities as a contributing factor in counties such as Jones, Page and Calhoun, which have positivity rates above 30 percent.
The newly signed proclamation lasts for 30 days. When asked, Reynolds would not say she would consider closing bars and restaurants and using CARES Act funds or part of the state’s $300 million budget surplus to support those workers.