With Greene County at a 14-day COVID-19 positivity rate of 24.5%, the Greene County Supervisors voted unanimously Thursday to impose a countywide mandatory mask rule.
The mandatory mask order, applying to everyone older than 2, will expire Jan. 21.
At Monday’s supervisors meeting, Greene County Public Health Director Becky Wolf, describing the county’s positivity rate as “a crisis” and “frightening,” said that “solutions are simple, but we must use them. We can’t rely on social distancing alone.”
Greene County Community School District Superintendent Tim Christensen said illness is causing staffing difficulties in the district.
“We might have to apply for remote learning,” Christensen said, and on Wednesday he did request a waiver from in-person attendance requirements from the Iowa Department of Education and permission to move the district to remote learning for all students.
“Enforcing a mask mandate is difficult,” John Muir, chair of the Greene County Board of Supervisors, said at Monday’s meeting, “but I think we should pass a mandate for one month with no fines (for violators.)”
Supervisors Peter Bardole, Mick Burkett, Tom Contner and Dawn Rudolph agreed and approved the countywide mask resolution at Thursday’s special meeting.
Instead of using the term “mask,” the resolution refers to “face covering,” meaning “a material that securely covers a person’s nose and mouth and remains affixed in place without the use of one’s hands, whether purchased or homemade, including both face masks and face shields.”
According to the mask mandate, every person in Greene County shall wear a face covering when the person is:
- in public and cannot stay six feet apart from others,
- inside any indoor public settings, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, retail stores and all other public settings,
- outdoors and cannot stay six feet apart from others,
- using public transportation or private car service, such as taxis, ride shares and carpools.
The resolution specifies the kinds of face coverings that satisfy the rule and lists a number of exemptions for certain persons and circumstances. It also notes that no penalty applies to violators.
“There is no penalty for a violation of this regulation, which is not intended to be punitive or stigmatizing, but is in the best interest of the health and safety of the people of Greene County,” the resolution said.
Susan Moore, chief nursing officer at the Greene County Medical Center, said Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds “has not mandated masks because she is counting on the people to do the right thing. As we can see by the positivity rate, that is not occurring. We are to the point of being overwhelmed and fatigued and we need everyone’s help.”