woman in yellow tshirt and beige jacket holding a fruit stand
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

DES MOINES, Iowa – Mayor Frank Cownie on Wednesday signed an emergency declaration making face masks mandatory to address the community spread of COVID-19.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa currently has over 58,000 cases and Polk County accounts for over 12,000 of those cases. Iowa reports 1,069 deaths with 221 of those deaths being in Polk County.

 “We are switching from an urgent recommendation to a mandate. This is to send a strong and clear message that we need to be accountable and disciplined in battling this pandemic,” Cownie said. “Now more than ever we have to protect the health and well-being of the citizens of Des Moines and the state of Iowa.”

The proclamation states, “all persons in the City of Des Moines shall wear a face covering such as a cloth mask, surgical mask, plastic shield or similar covering that covers their nose and mouth when in a public place” unless they fall under one of the proclamation’s exemptions in the following circumstances:

  •  When outside your home, but not six feet away from other persons.
  •  When inside indoor public settings or place of public accommodations as defined in City of Des Moines Municipal Code Chapter 62, including without limitation all retail stores, restaurants, bars, taverns and other accommodations.
  •  When in any other public settings that are not one’s residence or dwelling place with persons who do not live in the same residence or dwelling place;
  •  When using public transportation or private car service (including taxis, ride share, or carpooling).

The proclamation also states that organizations and businesses must turn away people not wearing a mask.

“No organization that is a public accommodation of any sort, including without limitation, a business that is open to the public, may provide service to a customer or allow a customer to enter its premises, unless the customer is wearing a face covering as required by this Proclamation, and such organizations must post signs at entrance(s) instructing customers of their legal obligation to wear a face covering while inside pursuant to this Proclamation,” it reads.

The proclamation offers the following exemptions:

  • Persons under 2 years of age
  •  Any person who has trouble breathing, is currently on oxygen therapy or on a ventilator;Any unconscious or incapacitated person or any person who is otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance
  •  Any person who has been told in writing by a medical, legal, or behavioral health professional not to wear face coverings when that writing is carried on the person not using an otherwise required face covering unless such inquiry is prohibited by Federal or State law
  •  Any person actively engaged in a public safety role, including but not limited to law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel;Any person traveling in a personal vehicle alone or with members of the same household
  •  Any person who is alone or in the presence of only members of the same household
  •  Any person exercising at moderate or high intensity (e.g. jogging or biking)
  •  Any person seated at a food establishment when actually engaged in the process of eating or drinking
  •  Any person actually obtaining a service that would require temporary removal of the persons face covering (e.g. dental, orthodontic or medical services)
  •  Any person for whom a face covering would be violative of a sincerely held religious belief or doctrine
  •  When Federal or State law prohibits wearing a face covering or requires the removal of the face covering

Des Moines joins Iowa City, Dubuque, Mount Vernon and Muscatine in issuing a mask mandate. The mandate, however, will be toothless. Cownie said that Des Moines Police will not focus on issuing citations to those found in public without a mask, instead they will educate violators about the health and safety reasons behind the mandate and offer them a mask.

“We prefer handing out masks to writing citations,” Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert said. “That is why our department ordered 10,000 face coverings for our officers to distribute to the public.”

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