Iowa lifts mask and social distancing requirements for all businesses

By: - February 5, 2021 5:31 pm

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers the Condition of the State address in the House Chambers at the Iowa Capitol Building on Jan. 12, 2021. (Pool photo by Bryon Houlgrave/Des Moines Register)

Iowa’s limited mask mandate will end Sunday under Gov. Kim Reynolds’ newest public health disaster proclamation.

Friday’s order replaces previous public health guidance which included the mandatory use of masks and social distancing. The new order does not mandate any guidelines for businesses or private gatherings, but rather suggests that Iowans take precautions to protect vulnerable populations.

The Centers for Disease Control still recommend all people over the age of 2 wear masks and distance from one another indoors

The new proclamation takes effect Sunday, Feb. 7. Here are the changes:

Masks: Under the previous order, masks were required in public, indoor places if an individual would be within 6 feet of others for 15 minutes or longer. There were exceptions for those eating in restaurants, churches, sporting events, etc.

Friday’s order does not require masks in any public settings.

Restaurants and bars: Restaurants and bars may operate at full capacity and with no social distancing or masks under the new order. Until this point, restaurants and bars were required to space out tables by at least 6 feet, to limit the number of people in a party, and to have customers wear masks when they are not seated.

The order encourages establishments to continue to take public health precautions.

Other businesses, including gyms, barber shops, casinos, spas, movie theaters, etc are no longer mandated to take any COVID-19 precautions. The new order “strongly encourage(s)” the businesses to take “reasonable measures” to prevent the spread of the virus.

Gatherings: Reynolds encourages hosts to “take reasonable measures” to ensure the safety of gatherings under Friday’s order. Previously, private gatherings required social distancing measures.

There have been 5,067 deaths related to COVID-19 in Iowa as of Friday. Iowa has a 14-day positivity average of 9.1%.

Iowa also continues to rank among the states with the slowest COVID-19 vaccine distribution: Just 6.5% of the population has received their first shot of two, according to data from the New York Times and the CDC.

At the current rate of vaccine distribution, the CDC estimates that it will be several months before even the population currently eligible for a shot — people over 65, health care workers, teachers and other essential workers — is fully vaccinated.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.