By Katie Akin, Iowa Capital Dispatch
Iowa’s limited mask mandate will end Sunday under Gov. Kim Reynolds’ newest public health disaster proclamation.
Friday’s order replaces previous public health guidance which included the mandatory use of masks and social distancing. The new order does not mandate any guidelines for businesses or private gatherings, but rather suggests that Iowans take precautions to protect vulnerable populations.
The Centers for Disease Control still recommend all people over the age of 2 wear masks and distance from one another indoors.
The new proclamation takes effect Sunday, Feb. 7. Here are the changes:
Masks: Under the previous order, masks were required in public, indoor places if an individual would be within 6 feet of others for 15 minutes or longer. There were exceptions for those eating in restaurants, churches, sporting events, etc.
Friday’s order does not require masks in any public settings.
Restaurants and bars: Restaurants and bars may operate at full capacity and with no social distancing or masks under the new order. Until this point, restaurants and bars were required to space out tables by at least 6 feet, to limit the number of people in a party, and to have customers wear masks when they are not seated.
The order encourages establishments to continue to take public health precautions.
Other businesses, including gyms, barber shops, casinos, spas, movie theaters, etc are no longer mandated to take any COVID-19 precautions. The new order “strongly encourage(s)” the businesses to take “reasonable measures” to prevent the spread of the virus.
Gatherings: Reynolds encourages hosts to “take reasonable measures” to ensure the safety of gatherings under Friday’s order. Previously, private gatherings required social distancing measures.
There have been 5,067 deaths related to COVID-19 in Iowa as of Friday. Iowa has a 14-day positivity average of 9.1%.
Iowa also continues to rank among the states with the slowest COVID-19 vaccine distribution: Just 6.5% of the population has received their first shot of two, according to data from the New York Times and the CDC.
At the current rate of vaccine distribution, the CDC estimates that it will be several months before even the population currently eligible for a shot — people over 65, health care workers, teachers and other essential workers — is fully vaccinated.