Des Moines mayor signs citywide mask mandate

By: - August 26, 2020 3:26 pm

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie wears a bandana over his face during a news conference June 1, 2020, on the State Capitol steps. (Photo by Kathie Obradovich/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie signed an emergency proclamation Wednesday requiring people to wear face coverings in public places in the city, effective immediately, according to a news release. 

Face coverings like a shield or face mask are required in any public space in Des Moines wherever people cannot stay at least six feet away from each other, according to the proclamation. Masks will also be required in businesses, including stores, restaurants, bars and taverns. They will also be required on public transportation and car services like Uber or Lyft.

The mask mandate comes as Iowa experiences an increase in virus infections, including more than 12,000 positive cases in Polk County, according to the release. Polk County Emergency Management reported that positive cases have been rising since Aug. 9. 

Iowa is experiencing an average of 629 positive COVID-19 cases a day.

Cownie’s goal is to get the local area’s infection rate under 5%.

“I just think that we have to do everything we can to protect the health and wellbeing of all our citizens,” Cownie said. “It’s all of us working together that’s going to help us get over this.”

Businesses and organizations that work with the public must decline to serve or admit a customer if they are not wearing a face covering. They must also post a sign on their entrances instructing customers it’s their “legal obligation” to wear a face covering.

However, city officials are not “focused” on issuing citations to people who violate the proclamation.

Cownie said he does not want to add a burden to police officers by asking them to issue citations. Instead, officers will pass out face masks.

For those who choose to continue to defy the order and cause a health concern, Cownie said his order is enforceable and a citation could be issued, though the details of what that would look like are unknown.

“This is about health and wellbeing. This isn’t a way to make money for the city. It’s about everyone trying to do the right thing for the health of our citizens,” Cownie said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has said she believes municipalities are not allowed to enforce a mask mandate because it conflicts with her own proclamations. Reynolds has been hesitant to require masks statewide, saying she believes Iowans have been practicing personal responsibility.

Des Moines joins Iowa City, Dubuque, Mount Vernon and Muscatine in requiring masks.

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