During a primetime address to Iowans, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday she is increasing COVID-19 mitigation measures as Iowa hospitals endure a surge of infected patients.
The new measures, which include indoor mask requirements, limits on social gatherings, and reductions in elective surgery, are to begin at midnight and end Dec. 10.
Reynolds said the new efforts are an attempt to help Iowa hospitals, where one in four inpatients have the virus.
COVID-19 infections have accelerated so quickly in Iowa that the daily rate of new hospitalizations, which was 100 patients in October, is now 200 patients.
For months, Reynolds resisted requiring masks, saying Iowans needed to practice personal responsibility.
But with Iowa hospitals setting new records for admissions, Reynolds handed down her strictest mask regulations yet on Monday night.
“This isn’t about mandates,” Reynolds said. “This isn’t about government. There isn’t enough law enforcement in the country to make sure that every Iowan is wearing a mask when they should … If Iowans don’t buy into this, we lose.”
Highlights from Reynolds’ proclamation
Face masks are required for children and adults who are in an indoor space that’s accessible to the public, and social distancing is not possible, for longer than 15 minutes.
- Exceptions: The mask requirement does not apply to schools, according to the governor’s office. Also, exceptions are made for people with medical conditions that don’t allow them to wear a mask, people working alone or in a space where six feet or more of distance can be maintained, people sitting to eat or drink at a bar or restaurant, people who are exercising, and people attending religious gatherings.
Indoor gatherings of more than 15 people are prohibited. These include social, community, business or leisure events such as weddings, funeral receptions, festivals, conventions and fundraisers.
- Exceptions: Gatherings that occur due to the normal course of business, including office work, retail business and manufacturing work.
Outdoor gatherings of more than 30 people are prohibited, with rules similar to those for indoor gatherings.
- Exceptions: Certain high school, collegiate and professional sporting events. Religious gatherings are also not restricted. However, swim teams, gymnastics, group swimming lessons and organized basketball games are prohibited.
Restaurants and bars must stop dine-in service by 10 p.m.
- Exceptions: Take-out and carryout orders may continue after hours.
Beyond these new measures, the number of hospital inpatient beds used for non-elective surgeries must by reduced by 50% and gyms may not hold group fitness activities.
Iowa Democrats condemn Reynolds, say ‘too little, too late’
Iowa Democrats issued a statement following Reynolds’ press conference, saying her “half-measured attempt” at a mask mandate will not be enough to slow the spread of the virus.
In their joint statement, Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls and House Minority Leader Todd Prichard said, “Governor Reynolds seems shocked that her failed COVID strategy has resulted in thousands of deaths, overcrowded hospitals, unsafe schools, and some of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the country over the past nine months. Her half-measured attempt at a mask mandate will not be enough to make Iowans safer, especially heading into the holiday season. Her actions today are simply too little, too late. Half-measures will only prolong this pandemic and the suffering of Iowans.”
Eli Perencevich, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, tweeted that Reynolds’ new mask requirements do not go far enough.
Ask yourself this:
1) does the virus only spread after 10pm
2) if you don’t need to wear a mask unless you will be next to someone for 15 minutes, will you ever need wear a mask?
The answer to both of these questions is no
— 𝙀𝙡𝙞 𝙋𝙚𝙧𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙚𝙫𝙞𝙘𝙝 🤚 🧼😷 (@eliowa) November 16, 2020