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Waterloo considering implementing citywide face covering mandate

Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 12:48 PM CDT
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WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG) - A smattering of signs dot the windows of downtown Waterloo businesses, showing that some of them require customers to wear masks, some encourage it, and some don’t have any mask requests.

A notice on the front door of Tri-City Clothing, a men’s clothing store, tells people they can’t come in if their faces aren’t covered.

“We’re trying to keep everybody safe because that’s what it’s about is safety because we don’t know when this pandemic is going to be over, and I sure don’t want to get anything,” manager Renee Carson said.

The store just reopened Monday after being closed for about a month, the second time it closed since the spring because of the pandemic.

“If somebody comes in and says they’re sick with something, I’d rather shut it down, shut my business down than to take a chance on somebody getting sick,” Carson said.

Carson believes a citywide mask mandate could help her store stay open by keeping infections down in Waterloo.

“Something needs to be done until they get this thing under wraps,” she said.

Ward 2 Council Member Jonathan Grieder suggested such a requirement during Monday’s work session, and as the proposed mandate was written, it would be similar to one currently in place in Iowa City.

“This is such an easy fix, such an easy fix, that I think we need to take the steps and do what’s right for our community because some people will not act until we mandate it,” Grieder said.

The mandate would require people in Waterloo to cover their faces when they’re outside in public and can’t social distance and any time they’re inside other public spaces, like stores.

Some people would be exempt, including kids younger than two and people with trouble breathing, as would certain activities, including when people are eating and drinking in restaurants and when they’re exercising.

Grieder said the council will most likely vote on whether to approve the mandate in the near future, as early as the next council meeting on Aug. 10.

Four council members — Sharon Juon, Dave Boesen, Patrick Morrissey, and Jerome Amos Jr. — said they would join Grieder in supporting the order.

One council member, Margaret Klein, said she would not vote for it because of how she believes people would act in response to it.

“It causes people turning in their neighbors, parents turning in their children, children turning in their parents,” Klein said. “I believe that the citizens of Waterloo are doing a great job.”

But Grieder said the intention of the mandate is to encourage people to be safe, and he wants the city to explore ways to reward people who wear masks instead of punishing people who don’t.

In Iowa City, people who violate the face covering mandate can be charged with a simple misdemeanor, but city leaders have said that would be a last resort to obtain compliance.

“This is not intended to be some sort of stick-it-to-the-man, throw-people-in-jail-because-they’re-not-wearing-a-face-covering type of thing,” Grieder said of the proposed Waterloo mandate.

The state has argued that cities and counties don’t have the authority to implement local mask orders. However, Grieder said he had spoken with city leaders in Iowa City and Muscatine, which has also put its own face covering mandate in place, and said no legal action has been taken against those cities at this point.

While Carson is enforcing her own mask requirement at Tri-City Clothing, she said she doesn’t believe an order throughout the rest of Waterloo would hurt.

“I think the more we comply with it, the easier and the quicker they can probably get this thing under wraps,” she said.

Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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