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Iowa Code makes it clear that while the state is under a public health disaster, the Governor and the Department of Public Health have broad legal authority to prevent the transmission of the virus. This includes the ability to regulate businesses, travel and the wearing of masks.
Even without legal authority some cities and counties appear to be ready to ignore the Governor’s latest proclamation which lifts most restrictions on business in regards to masks, indoor capacity and social distancing at 12:01 a.m. Feb. 7. As some municipalities will overstep their legal authority, it is important for Iowans to know what the law is and how and when it can be enforced.
Can municipalities (cities, counties etc.) require masks and impose a penalty for noncompliance? No, according to the Iowa Attorney General, while the state is under a public health disaster the Governor has broad legal authority. Governor Reynolds has not implemented a state-wide mask mandate and has not given this power to local governments. Therefore, a municipality cannot legally require masks in public spaces, or businesses. They also cannot penalize a person for refusing to comply with an illegal mask mandate. However, municipalities can require masks on their property and in their buildings. Examples could include; city council meetings, city office buildings, or a public library.
Can public schools require faces masks be worn? Yes, public schools can require students to wear masks, even though the State Department of Education does not require it. Schools are given the choice to regulate face masks by teachers and students and to set standards for masks. The Department of Education has a list of concerns schools should be prepared to address if facemasks are required.
Can private business mandate face masks? Yes, a private business can require persons entering the business wear a face mask and can also require employees to wear them. A person who refuses to wear a mask can be denied entry to the business and can face legal action if they refuse to leave when asked.
What if someone doesn’t want to wear a face mask? Iowa does not have a statewide mask mandate and Iowans who choose not to wear a mask can do so, in most cases. However, they may be prohibited from entering certain local and federal buildings, and they may also be denied service in some private businesses.
Are there health exemptions to mask requirements? Yes, young children and those with certain health conditions may not be able to safely wear masks. The CDC and IDPH provides guidelines for who should consider not wearing one.
What to do if you receive a citation or fine for failure to wear a mask? If you have received a citation or fine for failure to wear a facemask in Iowa, please be aware that these fines are outside the scope of local government power and are illegal.