A Prescription for Iowa: Statewide Mask Mandate

IPHA was invited by Iowa Medical Society to speak at their “Prescription for Iowa” press conference on August 1, 2020. Below are the remarks shared by IPHA Executive Director, Lina Tucker Reinders, calling on Governor Reynolds to implement a mask mandate.

“Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this important issue this morning. My name is Lina Tucker Reinders and I am the Executive Director of Iowa Public Health Association. We are a statewide network of your public health professionals dedicated to a vision of a healthy and thriving Iowa.

Healthy and thriving go hand in hand. Or in this case, mask on face. The COVID-19 pandemic, more than any public health crisis we’ve faced in our lifetimes, is shining a spotlight on just how much every person’s health is intertwined, and that government action is required to ensure our collective safety and to keep our society going. In order for Iowa to thrive, we need to control the spread of this pandemic.

Yet, we are not doing that. Let’s be clear. We don’t have this outbreak under control. The number of people getting sick is not going down, nor does anyone expect it will anytime soon. Iowa has one of the highest rates of infection in the United States, and STILL, we are one of the few states without any sort of mask mandate. Iowa is on track to be one of the next coronavirus hot spots, just as our kids and teachers are returning to school.

Public health is critical for a thriving economy. Widespread use of masks and social distancing are critical strategies to control the spread of coronavirus, prevent death and disability, and restore our economy. Mounting evidence supports this, including research conducted right here at the University of Iowa that showed that States which implemented mask mandates have seen reduced transmission of coronavirus in as little as 5 days from issuance of the mandate.

We can reduce the spread of coronavirus if more Iowans wear masks on a regular basis. We can help ensure that we don’t reach the disease rates set by the Department of Education that would trigger potential school closures. We can ensure that our restaurants, small businesses, and essential services stay open. We can do this when everyone wears a mask. But too many people aren’t.

The Governor does understand how important masks are to controlling the spread of coronavirus. That is why she is already recommending that Iowans wear masks. She has consistently called on Iowans to “do the right thing” and I thank her for being seen in public more and more frequently wearing a mask herself.

In recent weeks, the Iowa Public Health Association, the Iowa Medical Society, and ten local public health directors have all asked Governor Reynolds to do the right thing. This morning again, we – your public health and medical communities of Iowa – are calling on Governor Reynolds to do the right thing… support a mask mandate, ideally statewide, but minimally by local authorities.  

Masks are neither partisan nor political. Public health should never be partisan or political. Public health is about preventing harm, saving lives, and contributing to a thriving Iowa.”