DES MOINES, IOWA – Wednesday, August 26, 2020 – Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie today signed an emergency proclamation making face coverings mandatory in public places whenever proper social distance cannot be maintained. The mask mandate took effect as the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) surpassed 58,000 positive cases statewide with nearly 12,000 in Polk County.
“New positive cases of the virus continue at an alarming rate in Polk County and the City of Des Moines, putting the health care system and City residents in immediate danger with no end in sight to the alarming rate of infection,” the proclamation states.
According to Polk County Emergency Management, Iowa’s positive cases have been rising since August 9, and Iowa is one of only eight states with increasing activity.
“We are switching from an urgent recommendation to a mandate. This is to send a strong and clear message that we need to be accountable and disciplined in battling this pandemic,” Cownie said. “Now more than ever we have to protect the health and well-being of the citizens of Des Moines and the state of Iowa.”
According to the proclamation, all persons in the City of Des Moines shall wear a face covering such as a cloth mask, surgical mask, plastic shield or similar covering that covers their nose and mouth when in a public place in all of the following circumstances unless as excepted in the proclamation:
- When outside one’s residence or dwelling place and unable to stay at least six (6) feet away from other persons
- When inside any indoor public settings or place of public accommodations as defined in City of Des Moines Municipal Code Chapter 62, including without limitation all retail stores, restaurants, bars, taverns and other accommodations
- When in any other public settings that are not one’s residence or dwelling place with persons who do not live in the same residence or dwelling place;
- When using public transportation or private car service (including taxis, ride share, or carpooling).
No organization that is a public accommodation of any sort, including without limitation, a business that is open to the public, may provide service to a customer or allow a customer to enter its premises, unless the customer is wearing a face covering as required by this Proclamation, and such organizations must post signs at entrance(s) instructing customers of their legal obligation to wear a face covering while inside pursuant to this Proclamation. The provisions shall not apply to the following persons:
- Persons under 2 years of age
- Any person who has trouble breathing, is currently on oxygen therapy or on a ventilator;Any unconscious or incapacitated person or any person who is otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance
- Any person who has been told in writing by a medical, legal, or behavioral health professional not to wear face coverings when that writing is carried on the person not using an otherwise required face covering unless such inquiry is prohibited by Federal or State law
- Any person actively engaged in a public safety role, including but not limited to law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel;Any person traveling in a personal vehicle alone or with members of the same household
- Any person who is alone or in the presence of only members of the same household
- Any person exercising at moderate or high intensity (e.g. jogging or biking)
- Any person seated at a food establishment when actually engaged in the process of eating or drinking
- Any person actually obtaining a service that would require temporary removal of the persons face covering (e.g. dental, orthodontic or medical services)
- Any person for whom a face covering would be violative of a sincerely held religious belief or doctrine
- When Federal or State law prohibits wearing a face covering or requires the removal of the face covering
Scientific studies have shown that face coverings over the mouth and nose significantly reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Des Moines joins four other cities where mask mandates have been issued – Iowa City, Dubuque, Mount Vernon and Muscatine.
At least 35 states and the District of Columbia mandate face coverings in public, however, Iowa is not among them. Earlier this month health experts with the White House coronavirus task force recommended that Iowa officials issue a mask mandate.
Mayor Cownie added that Des Moines Police will not be focused on issuing citations to violators, instead they will stress the health and safety behind the mandate and encourage the public to wear face coverings.
“We prefer handing out masks to writing citations,” said Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert. “That is why our department ordered 10,000 face coverings for our officers to distribute to the public.”
It was two weeks ago when Des Moines initiated a safety campaign to provide free face coverings to residents who needed them. Mayor Cownie directed the City to purchase and distribute face coverings to keep residents safe while educating them on the benefits of masks.
To date, more than 10,000 have been distributed through Des Moines Parks and Recreation, Des Moines Public Library, DART, Blank Park Zoo, YMCA of Greater Des Moines, Central Iowa Shelter & Services, Des Moines Botanical Garden as well as various community and faith-based organizations.
“We want everyone to wear a face covering in Des Moines and to be diligent about keeping distance from others in public settings,” Cownie added.