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‘Pandemic’s worse than it’s ever been’: Iowa imposes STATEWIDE mask mandate until December 10 amid spike in Covid-19 cases

‘Pandemic’s worse than it’s ever been’: Iowa imposes STATEWIDE mask mandate until December 10 amid spike in Covid-19 cases
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has tightened the state’s coronavirus containment policies amid a spike in infections, mandating face masks at all indoor spaces open to the public when social distancing is not an option.

The state’s public health authority announced the order on Monday, outlining a series of ramped-up measures to stem the spread of the virus, among them the new mask mandate and curfew, as well as rules limiting the size and scope of public gatherings. The restrictions take effect on Tuesday, just over a week before the Thanksgiving holiday, and will last until December 10.

“These measures are targeted toward activities and environments where they have the potential to make a significant impact in a relatively short amount of time,” Reynolds said in an address, adding that “right now, the pandemic in Iowa is worse than it has ever been.”

That doesn't mean that these changes will be easy or popular, but they're necessary if we want to keep our businesses open, our kids in school and our healthcare system stable.

The indoor mask mandate applies only to residents unable to maintain six feet of distance from other people for longer than 15 minutes, also giving leeway for those with certain disabilities, individuals taking part in a “spiritual or religious gathering” and those eating at a restaurant, among other exemptions.

Iowa’s loophole for religious gatherings breaks with similar measures imposed in several other states, such as New York, Nevada and California, where limits on church services have stoked heated legal battles and claims of government crackdowns on the freedom to worship.

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The restrictions will also prohibit any gatherings of more than 15 people indoors and 30 outdoors – including at private residences – with the exception of “ordinary” business or governmental meetings. The 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants will also be joined by a complete ban on all bar seating, as well as a rule limiting “groups” mingling in those establishments to eight people, unless they all come from the same household.

Besides high school, college and professional leagues, all recreational sporting and “group fitness activities” will also be banned, the order says, effectively shuttering gyms, spas and health clubs across the state.

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While Reynolds acknowledged the rules may not be received well by the public – saying “I don't want to do this, especially as we're coming into a holiday season that is normally filled with joy” – she nonetheless insisted the restrictions are necessary, pointing to more than 52,000 new infections in the state over the last two weeks and a doubling of those hospitalized with Covid-19 since late October.

To date, Iowa has recorded more than 188,000 coronavirus infections and nearly 2,000 fatalities, making up just a fraction of the nationwide total of 11.1 million cases and 247,000 deaths, which have seen a surge over the last two weeks.

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