Supervisors broach idea of county mask mandate

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

LEE COUNTY – Lee County officials are carefully eyeing a potential move to mandate masks through an enforceable health regulation.

At a workshop following Tuesday’s regular Board of Supervisor’s meeting, Lee County Health Department administrator Michele Ross said she would bring the idea to the Board of Health at their meeting on Thursday.

Supervisor Gary Folluo asked Ross and Lee County Attorney Ross Braden to look into possible county regulations for masks to help reduce the substantial spread locally.

“What we’ve done in the past has helped but certainly hasn’t gone far enough. And if we can protect citizens of Lee County by doing this than I think its a good thing,” Folluo said.

Braden said any regulation should be born out of the Lee County Department of Health and then approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Iowa Code 137.104 gives local health departments authority to “make and enforce such reasonable rules and regulations not inconsistent with law and the rules of the state board as may be necessary for the protection and improvement of the public health”.

As of Tuesday morning, Lee County has 14-day positivity rating of 17.8%, the 7th highest in the state, and has 427 confirmed cases. The state’s Iowa Department of Public Health website coronavirus.iowa.gov and the Lee County Health Department both show current totals of 427 confirmed cases in the county. However, LCHD reported 53 from 3:30 p.m. Friday to 3:30 p.m. Monday, while the IDPH is showing 36 for all four days Friday-Monday.

Ross said that 1 in 80 of the 4,707 county residents who’ve been tested has tested positive for 9.1%.

She said the surge began in August and has a lot to do with people who are asymptomatic going about normal routines without wearing masks or engaging in social distancing.

Supervisor Matt Pflug asked Ross if she could explain why the numbers are so high currently.

“Our biggest concern is that people aren’t choosing to social distance, and are not wearing masks especially in those situations when they aren’t social distancing,” she said.

“People continue to gather in groups of 10 or more and not social distance. We’ve been trying to promote to the public to avoid large crowds and large gatherings of people and choose to have responsible behaviors.”

Braden said in Johnson County, another hot spot for the virus with the return to campus at the University of Iowa, the health department used it’s regulatory authority under Iowa code to institute a mask mandate.

“The Johnson County Board of Health exercised their regulatory authority on a perceived need in assisting in curbing the novel coronavirus in Johnson County,” Braden said.

“Their health department actually exercised its authority in coming up with a regulation that was then approved by their Board of Supervisors, which is slightly different than the Board of Supervisors coming up with an ordinance.”

Any regulation proposed by the county board of health would require a public meeting and a publishing of the regulations, before it could be approved.

Supervisor Rick Larkin said he would support such a move to mandate masks in the county.

“I’ve had several people stop me and ask why we haven’t enacted a mask ordinance requiring people to wear it, and I think there is some sentiment for us doing that no matter how it comes to us,” Larkin said.

“I would support doing whatever we have to do to get it done, but I think we need to move pretty quick on it.”

Braden said a regulation offered up by the health department, according to his research on the topic, wouldn’t be inconsistent with current Iowa law.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Fedler said law is only as good as it can be enforced and he said he believes it would be difficult for the sheriff’s department to start writing tickets for people not wearing face masks.

“If this was something Lee County was looking at, in my opinion it should come from the health department as opposed to an ordinance from the Board of Supervisors.,” Fedler said.

“There’s a legal argument that could be made that Board of Supervisors does have the authority to institute an ordinance for wearing a face mask, but it is much more genuine coming from the local Health authority through it’s regulatory authority.”

“The Board of health would issue citations based on observations taken by law enforcement. That’s about as far as we would go with it,” Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber said.

Johnson County’s health regulation requires every person wear a face covering when out in public where they can’t stay six feet away from others. It also requires masks inside any public setting including grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, retail outlets, schools and other public settings that aren’t places of residence.

The Johnson County regulation also provides exceptions for when someone is traveling along in a vehicle or with household members, exercising, seated at a restaurant or bar, obtaining services where the removal of the mask is required or wear federal or state law prohibits wearing a face covering.

Anyone younger than 2 is also exempt and those with compelling health related issues.

Violation of the regulations are met with a minimum fine for a simple misdemeanor. Subsequent offenses are punishable by up to the maximum fine for a simple misdemeanor, under the Johnson County face covering regulation.

20 thoughts on “Supervisors broach idea of county mask mandate

  1. Its already everywhere.its in every home.every store,bar and resturaunt.every gas pump.every door handle.no way to hide from it.i cant honestly believe what is going on here.there is alot of very smart people acting very dumb right now.
    Truth is theres way more people not getting sick than getting sick.most of us already have had it too.

    1. We should all listen to Tommy. He knows more than doctors, scientists, and other communicable disease experts. After all, he gets all his information from Donald Trump.

      1. Listen to the numbers theyve been shoving down our throats for the last 6 months.
        the president ,you obviuosly unAmericanly hate, has nothing to do with the fact this is way over hyped..look around..noone has the flu or pneumonia just corona virus??????

  2. I want to make clear I am not an “anti-masker” however, people scream give me the facts. Well here is a DIRECT Quote from the New England Journal of medicine “we know that hospital grade masks offer little to no protection against viruses outside of a hospital” and then goes on to say “in many cases the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic “. People wanted fact from a reputable source and I dont think it gets more reputable than the New England journal of medicine.

    1. Jerry, can we look at this thing from a total grammar perspective. And I’m 50/50 on the masks. I wear one everywhere because my wife works for a hospice and my mother is a senior citizen, and quite frankly, I’ve had enough medical issues in my family this year. So I wear one because regardless of what people say online, it is after all a barrier. But specific to the grammar, I have to ask this, and maybe you didn’t get the quote right, but how are viruses in a hospital setting different from a virus outside the setting except maybe the load is heavier in a hospital setting, but we can’t even prove that. I just don’t buy that statement that masks provide little to no protection against a virus “outside of a hospital”. That just makes no sense to me. Why attach that caveat? To me that says don’t use our masks in public we need them on the front lines, which is a valid point. Public in general can use general masks, but it IS a barrier on both sides. It’s not semipermeable on one side and permeable on the other. Do you use a filter furnace? Can’t you see right through those things? Yet no one runs a furnace without a paper thin, cardboard netting….as prescribed by the a/c guys. I use a furnace filter, because my guy, the expert who’s made of champion stuff, says use a furnace filter to extend the life of your furnace. I don’t question him. So when the national, state and local health experts say put on a mask, which they do, I take their advice over the advice of social media Susie who says they serve no purpose. It IS a barrier. LOL, I guess that wasn’t totally a grammar perspective, but there ya go.

  3. I think it’s great that our current elected officials in Lee County are going to turn it from blue to red. Keep up the good work!

        1. Thats not counting the tousands more trump 2020 signs that would be out if not for fear of vandalism by the very violent anti American left.

  4. You are misrepresenting the quote from NEJoM. The entire article says masks don’t add value in open spaces outdoors where contact is limited and people are widely spaced. In places like stores or other indoor places where people are closer they do prevent transmission. From NEJoM June 3.

  5. Well said Chuck. The countries and states that have lowered the transmission rates substantially all have strict mask mandates. Adams county ill has twice the population of. Lee County, but just 80 active cases as opposed to 320 for Lee County. Equals 8 times as many cases here. Masks work.

  6. Jerry, New England Journal of Medicine publishes a letter in June making it very clear there letter in April (which you are referring all the way back too) was taking out of context. They strongly urge the wearing of masks in public areas when you are within 6 feet of others for a longer period of time. Please look it up and give the facts.

  7. You all are missing the point…
    This is and has been here.its the flu,a bad one,wether we wear a mask or not.this is just another tool in the divide and conquer…its a distraction to whats really going on..wake up fools..

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