March 05, 2021

‘Keep wearing your mask’

Despite Reynolds’ proclamation, JCHD says mitigation measures like masks should still be practiced

Even though the governor’s recent proclamation lessens some of the COVID-19 restrictions and permits Iowans to not use face coverings when around others, Jasper County Health Department Administrator Becky Pryor says people still need to keep mitigation efforts in place, wear masks and socially distance.

“I think that we still need to keep our mitigation measures in place. If people are sick, they need to stay home. If they’ve been exposed to someone, they should stay home. Keep wearing your mask and social distancing,” Pryor said.

As of Saturday, Feb. 6, Jasper County has administered vaccines to about 4,000 people; about 900 of which already had their second dose.

“We still know there’s a lot of risk, such as Super Bowl Sunday being tomorrow,” Pryor said Saturday during a virtual legislative listening post hosted by Iowa House Rep. Wes Breckenridge. “We know that people are going to gather, and we know that people are going to spread COVID.

“So we need to try to mitigate as much as we can and try to keep people safe. We just want to get rid of COVID as best we can, so if we keep doing what we should be doing hopefully that will help with that — along with the vaccine.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proclamation, which went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, says it “relaxes” some of the existing public health measures.

For instance, Iowans no longer have to limit their public gatherings and are not required to wear masks when around other individuals for more than 15 minutes at a time. Businesses do not have to limit their customer capacities or keep patrons socially distanced either.

Iowa House Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, told constituents in an online legislative listening post that the proclamation does urge people to still use precautions, particularly in gatherings. Reynolds says hosts should take “reasonable measures” to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Breckenridge received several questions from House District 29 residents immediately after Reynolds announced her updated proclamation.

Does that mean restaurants or bars have to require masks of their staff or their patrons? Can I get up and move from the booth to now a barstool? Do I have to have a mask if I move from the booth to the barstool? Do I have to wear a mask when entering or exiting a restaurant or bar?

They answer to all those questions is: No. But it’s ultimately up to the restaurant.

“They do not if the business is not requiring it,” Breckenridge said. “They still ask them to try and maintain the six-foot distancing and good hygiene, but it’s on the burden of the business to decide if they will have that requirement in their business or not. It’s not mandated at this time.”

Still, Breckenridge urged people to continue their mitigation efforts, including limited gatherings and contact with others.

Newton Clinic Administrator Mark Thayer said he will continue to ask his staff and patients to wear masks for the next few months or until the at-risk population is immunized.

Others, too, will maintain the same procedures they had before the proclamation

Newton Superintendent Tom Messinger said during the legislative listening post that his district will continue requiring masks, for instance. DMACC Newton Provost Joe DeHart confirmed the community college still has the same masking requirements.

PCM Superintendent Michelle Havenstrite also said her district will not be making any changes from proclamation, choosing instead to wait on guidance from the Iowa Department of Education on the implications for public schools. After that has been issued, the school board — which adopted its mask mandate in October — can consider changes.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com