Public hearing set for facemask mandate

Board of Health to hold public hearing Wednesday at 7 a.m.

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

LEE COUNTY – Residents will have a chance to voice concerns over a proposed Lee County Board of Health regulation that would mandate masks in certain public environments Wednesday morning.

The Lee County Board of Health approved moving forward with a facemask regulation at their last regular meeting. The move requires a public hearing and another vote of the board. That hearing will take place via teleconference at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Lee County Health Department Administrator Michele Ross said the Board of Health agenda, following the public hearing, includes possible action regarding the regulation. If approved again by the Board of Health, a resolution would be sent to the Lee County Board of Supervisors for an up or down vote.

“There is an action item on the agenda to discuss, review, or revise to propose a regulation that’s been posted on our website and then they can take action to move to the Board of Supervisors or not,” Ross said.

“That will be done tomorrow.”

Supervisor Rich Harlow said Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has deemed facemask mandates unenforceable

“This mask mandate situation is a very emotional issue,” Harlow said.

“When you tell someone they have to do it, they really get their hackles up. I’m reading that Gov. Reynolds says it’s not enforceable. I’m also hearing that Sheriff Stacy Weber said it would be very difficult for him and his people to enforce.”

Supervisor Matt Pflug said it was important for people to fully understand what would be taking place. He said Johnson County has a similar Board of Health regulation in place and it’s working well.

“First of all let’s make sure our board understands what were talking about here,” he said.
“Johnson County has it in place now and I’m being told it works very well. Not a lot of citations are being issued- it’s more of educating people on why they should be wearing it.”

Pflug said people driving cars, or walking down the street doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be wearing your mask.

“A lot of people think as soon as they walk out of the house they have to wear a mask. That’s not the case. Let’s make sure we understand what we’re talking about, not just the conclusion that this isn’t good for Lee County,” Pflug said.

Lee County is below double digits in its 14-day positivity rate at 8.3% down from a high of over 18% two weeks ago. The county’s total positive case rate is 1.5% higher than the 14-day rate at 9.8%

Supervisor Gary Folluo initiated the conversation with the health department and Lee County Attorney Ross Braden about the legalities after fielding calls about a possible mandate.

“The premise of this was to help us help friends family and neighbors stay healthy and to prevent spread of COVID-19 when going out to the public,” Folluo said.

“It’s an educational thing coming from the supervisors, I hope that’s the direction we go and I strongly recommend that people wear masks. Regardless of your politics or your feelings of the government, you should be wearing a mask to protect your family and friends.”

Board Chairman Ron Fedler said he’s received numerous calls about the mandate and said only one was in favor of it.

Supervisor Rick Larkin said he’s fielding calls on all sides of the issue and said about 1/3 of those are from people who aren’t for it or against, but are trying to figure it out the best thing to do moving forward.

Harlow pointed to the shrinking positivity rate being reported locally and by the state.

“If numbers are going down, why are you making me wear a mask,” Harlow said.

Folluo said the regulation would help keep numbers from spiking again.

“Nobody wants our numbers to go back up to 18. When you get to 20 there are some serious issues and we want to make sure people stay safe. The more you can limit it, the better off you are.”

How to join the hearing

The link to the meeting is https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/652812493
You can also join by phone at 1-872-240-3311, access code 652-812-493. To move the hearing efficiently, the board chair is asking anyone that wants to comment use the chat feature in the upper right hand corner of the GoToMeeting window for the chair to address you. If you are calling in by phone, please wait until everyone is done speaking to address the board. Also, the chair is asking that all participants calling in mute their phone by pressing #6. You can press #6 to unmute when the hearing is opened to call-ins to give input.

More information on the proposed regulation and the public hearing can be found at www.leecountyhd.org.

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