Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds addresses Iowans during her weekly press conference on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Johnston, Iowa, where she provided updates on the COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
(Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register via AP)
Iowans are no longer required to mask-up in public buildings as of Sunday morning, according to the latest health proclamation by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The new rules — which reverse restrictions Reynolds instituted before Thanksgiving — also lift previous restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather in one space at any given time, along with social distancing requirements for businesses like restaurants and gyms.
“It allows us to go back to doing business at a really critical time,” Iowa Restaurant Association chief Jessica Dunker told the Des Moines Register on Saturday.
“We are … one day before the Super Bowl, which opens up a lot of businesses for crowds to come in and safely watch the big game.”
Reynolds, who once dismissed mask mandates as a “feel-good” measure, changed her mind in November as COVID-19 cases surged in Iowa and elsewhere.
Her office did not provide an explanation for the governor’s decision to lift those restrictions, according to reports. Iowa reported 804 coronavirus cases as of Friday morning and ranks 46th in the country in vaccine distribution, the Register said.
The new proclamation “strongly encourages Iowans, businesses, and organizations to take reasonable public health measures consistent with guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
But at least one prominent public health voice in the state criticized the move, which was announced days after state officials announced three confirmed cases of the highly contagious British COVID-19 variant.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, to put it bluntly,” Iowa Public Health Association President Lina Tucker Reinders told the Register.
“We’re not out of the pandemic yet.”