Reynolds’ mask mandate is completely useless


On Monday, Nov. 16, Governor Kim Reynolds issued a statewide mask mandate that went into effect Nov. 17 and will last until at least Dec. 10. This is Iowa’s first mask mandate after months of Reynolds’ blatant dismissal of COVID-19 safety restrictions as “feel good” measures, despite Iowa garnering a total of approximately 191,000 total cases, 2,028 COVID-19 related deaths as of Nov. 18 and hospitals reaching full capacity.

Upon further inspection, however, it seems that this mask mandate has numerous fallacies. Masks are to be worn by those aged two or older when inside a public indoor space and within six feet of non-household members for 15 minutes or longer. Already, we have a red flag. Why is unmasked and undistanced contact under 15 minutes permitted? Are we taking a “5-second-rule” approach to the Coronavirus? How is this going to be monitored and enforced to begin with?

A slew of exceptions are listed in her proclamation as well, stating that masks are not required to be worn by those with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent wearing masks, anyone who can be socially distanced, those who are eating or drinking at restaurants and bars, athletes, those who are performing for an audience (including religious, political, educational, artistic, cultural, musical and theatrical performances) and those participating in spiritual and religious gatherings.

While the first two exceptions are reasonable and should be expected, the mandate begins to fall apart the further one reads. It certainly seems that Governor Reynolds is more concerned with where not to wear masks and how to make exceptions for nonessential and recreational activities. The proclamation also prohibits indoor gatherings of more than 15 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 30 people, and restaurants and bars must close for in-person dining from 10 p.m. and cannot reopen until 6 a.m.

Simply put, this is a mandate in name only. Governor Reynolds is doing the least possible that she can get away with and blaming the results of her inaction on Iowans. And while we certainly must hold ourselves accountable, the responsibility falls upon our government to put laws in place to hold everyone accountable. And considering Reynolds’s participation in a crowded, predominantly-unmasked Trump rally just last month (not wearing a mask herself), it’s clear that she has no concern for public health and is blatantly opposed to taking meaningful action.

As of Nov. 18 Iowa has the third highest rate of COVID-19 in the United States, behind only South Dakota (second) and North Dakota (first). Every county in Iowa is currently in the “red zone” according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, meaning that the entire state is experiencing cases of at least 101 per 100,000 people during the week. Given our low population, this is indicative of poor leadership and lack of appropriate legislation, which is exemplified by Governor Reynolds’ loose mask mandate. A Nov. 15 tweet by Dr. Eli Perencevich illustrates the grim environment of Iowa hospitals, prompting one to wonder: when will real action be taken?

“Sunday morning in the hospital. It’s happening. Hospitals filling. ICUs are filled. Rationing critical care resources and treatments. Nurses and doctors staring at each other in disbelief. We know. This bloody sucks. #iowa”