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Local mask mandates and enforcement vary across Eastern Iowa

Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 5:42 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - When Governor Reynolds ended the statewide mask mandate on Sunday, multiple cities and towns across Iowa said they’d be keeping mandates of their own.

“We know what we need to do and it doesn’t require a Government mandate to do it,” Governor Reynolds said in a news conference this week.

Several cities in Eastern Iowa have mask mandates in place including Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Dubuque, Waterloo and Cedar Falls. Both Linn and Johnson County also have mask mandates of their own. But not all towns within those counties have mandates, like Prairieburg.

“It can definitely be confusing and frustrating for a lot of people because I’m sure they’ll be you know do I need to wear a mask or not depending on where I’m at,” says Prairieburg Mayor Matthew Melvin.

Less than 200 people live in Prairieburg and Mayor Melvin tells TV-9 the three businesses in town do require masks. The town’s only seen around 5 cases of COVID-19 and he says most people are choosing to mask up regardless of not having a mandate because odds are they know the person next door.

“Most everybody in that town has known each other for years and years and they’re all looking out for each other. So it’s almost a big family I mean nobody wants to see their neighbor get sick,” Melvin says.

It’s not just the mandates that vary from place to place, it’s the enforcement too.

While Cedar Rapids has a mask mandate, the Police Department has never cited anyone for not wearing a mask.

The same goes for Iowa City and for Waterloo. They’re all taking the educational approach, and are offering masks to people without one.

Dubuque officers are doing the same, however, they have given out 7 citations to people and businesses that haven’t complied with the mandate.

“In those instances, those were ones that had been given previous warnings so it was kind of a repeat occurrence for us so that’s why those citations were issued,” says Lieutenant Ted McClimon.

The $10 fines were all issued in November, it hasn’t come to that since.

“We really want to see voluntary compliance. Encourage people to wear them, educate them if we come across it in lieu of citation so really just kind of we’ve taken that approach all along,” McClimon says.

The hope for law enforcement and cities alike is that people will follow the rules and use common sense regardless of where they are.

“You know everybody look out, it doesn’t have to be political, everybody should look out for each other,” Melvin says.

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office also has not issued any citations for people not wearing masks. Sheriff Brian Gardner told us, “enforcement is expected to be a last resort” and “When the question comes down to what law prevails, a municipality’s laws/ordinances take precedent over the county’s regulations/ordinances.”

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