Iowa Governor Signs Bill Banning Mask Mandates in Schools, Businesses


    Iowa Governor Signs Bill Banning Mask Mandates in Schools, Businesses

    Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds speaks to the RNC from Washington, D,C.. (Handout via Reuters)

    Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill on Thursday that prohibits K-12 schools from implementing mask mandates and bars cities and counties from requiring masks in businesses.

    Public and private schools cannot enforce or enact a policy forcing school employees, students or visitors to wear a mask while on the premises unless it is for a “specific extracurricular or instruction purpose” or is required under existing state law for eye and ear protective devices, the new law says.

    However, masks can still be worn optionally.

    The new law also prohibits cities and counties from requiring property owners to enforce a mask policy “that is more stringent than a policy imposed by the state.” 

    “The state of Iowa is putting parents back in control of their child’s education and taking greater steps to protect the rights of all Iowans to make their own health care decisions,” the Republican governor said in a statement on Thursday. “I am proud to be a governor of a state that values personal responsibility and individual liberties.”

    The mask provision was included in HF 847, a larger education bill related to open enrollment and expanding tax programs that passed both chambers of the state legislature along party lines on Wednesday.

    Iowa school districts have already repealed their mask mandates in compliance with the law, though many have still strongly recommended that staff and students don masks to protect the unvaccinated.

    Des Moines Public Schools, one of Iowa’s largest school districts, said masks will be optional in its buildings, effectively immediately. However, the district will continue to “strongly encourage masks while indoors” because of the “size of our district, limited space in our buildings and the number of students still unvaccinated.”

    “Face coverings are still the best method available to protect the unvaccinated,” the district said in a statement. “Masks will continue to be required on school buses in accordance with a federal order requiring masks on all public transportation.”

    While many parents nationwide have called on schools and government officials to lift mask mandates for students, Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week that children too young to be vaccinated will still have to wear masks when they are indoors and around others “even if older kids and adults are free to take off face protection one they are fully vaccinated,” including in the fall when the school year begins and they’re “out there playing with their friends” and “particularly in an indoor situation.”

    Fauci said children younger than twelve will likely not be vaccinated until the end of the calendar year.

    The president of the American Federation of Teachers — a teachers’ union that has fought for much of the last year to keep classrooms closed despite scientific studies showing little-to-no transmission of the virus occurs in schools — said in a tweet that she believes it is a “good idea to keep vigilant right now on distancing and masks in schools and spend a few minutes trying to figure out how the new @cdc mask guidance affects schools.”

    The Iowa law comes after Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Tuesday prohibiting local governments and public schools from requiring face masks.

    The order directs local governments to drop their mask mandates by May 21 and schools to do so by June 4.

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    Published at Thu, 20 May 2021 19:39:26 +0000