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Linn County Officials seek authority from Governor to issue local COVID mandates, such as masks

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LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) -- The Linn County Board of Supervisors adopted a proclamation today requesting authority from Governor, Kim Reynolds to give local officials power to adopt measures appropriate for their communities in the COVID-19 response, such as a mask mandate.

All three Supervisors, The Linn County Board of Heath, and Mayors of Alburnett, Cedar Rapids, Central City, Ely, Fairfax, Hiawatha, Marion, Mount Vernon, Palo Prairieburg, Springville, and Robins all signed the proclamation.

As of August 5th, there are 2,153 confirmed cases in Linn County and 87 deaths associated with COVID, the second-highest death count behind Polk County.

Officials said this was an issue of local control, adding county and city officials should have the authority to issue mandates on masks, for instance, depending on what they're seeing in their communities.

The Supervisors and several mayors agreed following the one-size-fits-all approach Reynolds has issued isn't working for all Iowa communities.

Rather than pass their own mask mandate which would in essence be unenforceable, Supervisor Ben Rogers said they'd be seeking the authority from Reynolds to set appropriate guidelines in cities and communities. Supervisor, Brent Oleson agreed this was a good approach.

The proclamation was officially adopted during the 11 a.m. joint meeting and will be sent to the Governor's office for response.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors just adopted a proclamation requesting authority from the Governor to enact localized responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as a mask mandate. Members and mayors have concerns as Iowa is alone in having no mask mandate and requiring in-person school this year, as the county sees surging COVID cases: https://kwwl.com/2020/08/05/linn-county-officials-seek-authority-from-governor-to-issue-local-covid-mandates-such-as-masks/

Posted by KWWL on Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Linn County proclamation cited Reynolds' recent state proclamation and the I.D.P.H. guidance that strongly encourages the use of cloth face covering by employees and members of the public when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

It also cited concerns as major cities in the county are in just a 60-mile radius of three major meatpacking facilities that closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak

Linn County Board of Health Director, Pramod Dwivedi said, "This is perfect, this is great and what we've been hoping for."

Supervisor and member of the Board of Health, Stacey Walker said he was glad to see both boards taking action together and recognizing the urgency of the matter.

"Because we didn't act, didn't have a coordinated state-wide approach, because our Governer did not take this seriously, we're sliding back," said Walker, "With the school year approaching, students packed into buildings, teachers and students are starting to face impossible decisions."

At least 33 states have a statewide mask mandate. Iowa is the only state without a mask mandate while also requiring in-person school with no requirement of masks in the classrooms.

"With no state mandate for wearing masks and now mandating in-person school, we are alone in that and as a parent, that's pretty terrifying for our children," said Rogers.

Linn County Public Health has recommended the use of cloth face coverings since April 3, 2020, when the White House Coronavirus Task Force and CDC recommended that persons wear a cloth face covering in public to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"Best case it can keep us safe and save a life, worst-case scenario its a minor inconvenience," said Walker, "It's absurd to me we're still debating whether we ought to be wearing a mask."

Rogers said this isn't about ticketing people but rather educating the public and slowing the spread of COVID.

"I have a mask, there may be some of you who don't like to wear it, I don't like to wear it. Maybe you don't like being told what to do, I don't like to be told what to do, but I wear it," said Olson. "A lot of this is common sense, I've come to learn more about this and it's frustrating seeing more people not want to learn more and actively oppose science."

For the most up-to-date information on confirmed COVID-19 cases (by age, gender, race, and ethnicity), a map of confirmed cases by zip code, a graph of confirmed cases by date, positivity rates, hospitalizations, recoveries, and deaths in Linn County, visit Linn County’s COVID-19 dashboard at: https://c19-linncountygis-linncounty-gis.hub.arcgis.com/.

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Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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