Iowa governor lifts masks requirements, other coronavirus restrictions

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday lifted coronavirus restrictions that had been in place in the state since before Thanksgiving.

The Republican’s latest health proclamation won’t require Iowans to wear masks while inside public buildings and removes limits on both indoor and outdoor gatherings.

“I strongly encourage that all businesses or other employers remaining open with in-person operations take reasonable measures under the circumstances of each establishment to ensure the health of employees, patrons and members of the public, including social distancing practices, increased hygiene practices and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” the proclamation said, according to KCCI-TV in Des Moines.

The order goes into effect at midnight Sunday.

Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, praised the order, which dispenses with social distancing requirements in restaurants and bars.

“Quite frankly, it allows us to go back to doing business at a really critical time,” she said, according to the Des Moines Register. “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.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks in Davenport, Iowa, Oct. 31, 2020. (Getty Images)

But Lina Tucker Reinders, executive director of the Iowa Public Health Association, said she thinks the restrictions are being lifted too early.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea, to put it bluntly,” she said, according to the Register. “We’re not out of the pandemic yet.” 

Rep. Cindy Axne, the lone Democratic U.S. congressperson from Iowa, called the decision “short-sighted, ill-conceived, and dangerous.”

In Des Moines, Mayor Frank Cownie said the city’s mask mandate would remain in effect, KCCI reported.

“To me, the science has been very clear. When you see a spread like we’re seeing in the state of Iowa and in Polk County, we need to be more diligent,” Cownie told the station.

The governor’s ease in restrictions comes as new case numbers and hospitalizations are tracking downward from the state’s spike around the holidays.

Still, the state just surpassed 5,000 deaths and at least three cases of a new U.K. variant that is considered more contagious have been confirmed, according to the Des Moines Register and NPR.

The state has also struggled in rolling out the vaccine and is ranked as the third-worst – ahead of Idaho and Missouri – in per capita distribution, Reynolds said, according to the Register.

“We’re averaging about 60% in getting the vaccines administered and that’s not where we need to be,” Reynolds said in a news conference last week, KCCI reported. “We want to do better. We know we can do better.”

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