Due to the alarming surge in positive COVID-19 cases and record-breaking hospitalizations across the country and locally, the Linn County Board of Supervisors today signed a resolution unanimously approving the Linn County Board of Health’s face covering regulation. The Linn County Board of Health unanimously approved the regulation at its noon meeting on Monday, November 16.
This action by these two boards makes face coverings mandatory in public places throughout Linn County, whenever six (6) feet of physical distance cannot be maintained. The regulation takes effect Nov. 19, 2020. This action aligns with the recommendations of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control on the use of face coverings in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Scientific studies have shown that face coverings over the mouth and nose significantly reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
According to the most recent White House Coronavirus Task Force report released on Nov. 15, 2020 (PDF), “…there is now aggressive, unrelenting, expanding, broad community spread across the country, reaching most counties, without evidence of improvement but rather, further deterioration. Current mitigation strategies are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies.”
Additionally, the White House Coronavirus Task Force report states 100% of Iowa counties are in the “red zone,” meaning they have high levels of community transmission of the virus. Linn County is one of the top three Iowa counties with the highest number of new cases over the last three weeks. The report called the community spread in Iowa “exponential and unyielding” and called for mask requirements in all public settings. Iowa had 991 new cases per 100,000 population, compared to a national average of 294 per 100,000 population. Additionally, the report stated there has been an over 30% increase in new hospital admissions in Iowa within the past week.
On November 16, a day after the White House Coronavirus Task Force released this most recent report, Governor Reynolds issued a statewide mask requirement (PDF) as part of enhanced public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“In recognition of the current surge in the number of positive cases of COVID-19, the extreme burden on the local health care systems in Linn County, and the science on the efficacy of face coverings, the Board of Health proposed a mandatory face covering regulation to recommend to the Linn County Board of Supervisors. The emphasis of the regulation is on mitigating the spread of the coronavirus in Linn County. It is not meant to be punitive or a burden to those with health conditions that would be exacerbated by wearing the mask. We hope that all citizens will consider their own health and that of their fellow citizens by wearing a mask as directed and helping to slow down the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Mary Tarbox, chair of the Linn County Board of Health.
“Iowa has some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection per capita in the nation. I have spoken with epidemiologists, doctors, nurses, and other public health experts. Left unchecked, this virus will continue to negatively impact our economy, hospitals, schools, families, and work force,” said Ben Rogers, chair of the Linn County Board of Supervisors. “This action to mandate face coverings is not something the Board of Supervisors takes lightly. However, we believe it is in the collective best interest of our community.”
The exemptions in the statewide mask requirement also apply to Linn County. The Governor may extend or eliminate certain exemptions to the statewide mask requirement.
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