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Iowa governor issues statewide mask mandate and other new COVID restrictions

The latest proclamation goes into effect at midnight Monday and lasts through Dec. 10, likely forcing many families to cancel Thanksgiving plans.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Effective at midnight Monday, Iowan's will now be required to wear masks whenever they're unable to social distance inside public spaces. 

This order is part of several new mitigation measures put in place Monday by Gov. Kim Reynolds as Iowa's case counts continue to spike exponentially. 

The Republican governor cites skyrocketing COVID-19 hospitalizations as one of the reasons for issuing one of her most restrictive proclamations since the pandemic began. 

"We have the same number of cases from the beginning of the pandemic in March to mid-August," Reynolds said during her Monday evening address. 

After months of saying Iowans will do the right thing, Reynolds took a different approach to the matter.

"For some Iowans who have experienced the virus firsthand that may not seem like something to worry about, because for, for many, COVID-19 has been relatively mild, some having no symptoms at all. And I'm grateful for that," the governor said. 

"But I'm afraid that these mild cases have created a mindset where Iowans have become complacent... where we've lost that sight of what it was, why it was so important to flatten the curve."

Reynolds said about 5% of Iowans with the virus require hospitalization, and because of this the state has seen the dramatic increase of hospitalizations over the last several weeks. 

Credit: WOI
A look at hospitalizations from COVID-19 in Iowa from Oct. 16 to Nov. 16.

"Because of the increase we've seen over the last two weeks, our health care system is being pushed to the brink," Reynolds said. "The number of Iowans in the hospital with COVID-19 has doubled to the point where one out of every four hospital patients, has the virus."

Statewide mask mandate

Under the new order, if you're in an indoor space that's open to the public, you must wear a mask or face covering if you're within six feet of people who are not members of your household for 15 minutes or longer.

This mandate does not apply to the following groups:

  • People under the age of two
  • Anyone with medical conditions or disabilities that prevents wearing a face covering
  • Anyone working alone or working in a space where six feet of physical distance can be maintained or anyone able to otherwise avoid prolonged exposures with others outside their household
  • People that are eating or drinking or sitting at a restaurant or bar table to eat or drink
  • Athletes participating in sporting or recreational events or anyone engaged in physical exercise
  • Anyone giving a religious, political, media, educational, artistic, cultural, musical or theatrical presentation or performance for an audience
  • Anyone participating in a service at a spiritual or religious gathering
  • Anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing, and anyone communicating with people who are deaf or hard of hearing or has a disability, medical condition or mental health condition that makes communicating with that individual while wearing a mask difficult
  • Anyone obtaining or providing a service that requires the temporary removal of a mask or face covering
  • Anyone asked to remove a mask or face covering to verify an identity for lawful purposes
  • Public safety workers actively engaged in public safety roles and when a mask or face covering would seriously interfere in the performance of their public safety responsibilities
  • Anyone exempted from this requirement by another section of this proclamation

The governor has also ordered people to wear face coverings in state government office buildings, offices or facilities under the control of the Executive Branch if people are within six feet of others for 15 minutes or longer.

The above exemptions apply to this requirement, but also exempt people in spaces under the control of the Legislative or Judicial Branches.

RELATED: North Dakota governor enacts statewide mask mandate after long holdout

Bars, restaurants must close Monday night at 10

Reynolds has ordered all restaurants and bars to close to the general public for in-person consumption at 10 p.m. They are not allowed to reopen until 6 a.m. They can stay open for carry-out and drive-thru services. Reynolds clarified that all staff and customers must wear masks. The only exception is when customers are seated at tables.

Reynolds also ordered Iowans to limit gatherings to less than 15 people, impacting Thanksgiving plans for countless families in the state.

Gathering restrictions

Starting at midnight, there are also several new restrictions on gatherings in place until Dec. 10.
Indoor gatherings of more than 15 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 30 people are now prohibited in most cases.

This includes wedding and funeral receptions, family gatherings, festivals, conventions, fundraisers and other nonessential gatherings and events where people who don't ordinarily live or work together congregate indoors.

This section doesn't apply to restrict gatherings occurring during the ordinary course of business or government between employees or members of the public, including but not limited to gathering sin an office or manufacturing workplace, normal retail operations or other establishments explicitly addressed in the proclamation.  

RELATED: Polk County Health Department calls large conference in Des Moines 'alarming' after video shows no social distancing or mask-wearing

Spiritual, religious gatherings

For the first time, Reynolds also included mitigation requirements for spiritual and religious gatherings.

In the proclamation issued Monday, it notes that spiritual and religious gatherings, including weddings and funerals, are not prohibited.
It does say churches, synagogues or other hosts of spiritual or religious gatherings shall implement reasonable measures under the circumstances of each gathering to ensure social distancing of employees, volunteers and other participants.

It also requires them to have increased hygienic practices and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 consistent with guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Some sports, recreational gatherings prohibited

Some sporting and recreational gatherings will now be prohibited until Dec. 10.
Under the governor's proclamation, sporting and recreational gatherings of any size are prohibited, except for high school, collegiate or professional sporting and recreational gatherings.

The order bans youth and adult group sporting events and recreational activities, including but not limited to group swim lessons, swim teams, dance, gymnastics and organized basketball games.

It doesn't prohibit individual sporting and recreational activities.

High school-sponsored sports/extra-curriculars

High school-sponsored sporting and extracurricular events are not prohibited so long as the gathering organizer and all spectators ensure that spectators are limited to no more than two spectators for each student athlete, performer or competitor in the gathering.

Spectators can only be present during the time the student or the student's team is participating in a game, meet or competition. The gathering organizer and all spectators must also ensure at least six feet of physical distance between each group of spectators.

Student participants aren't required to wear masks while participating in an event, but all spectators over the age of two are required to wear face coverings. 

Nonessential/elective surgeries

The proclamation outlines a stop to all nonessential or elective surgeries, but procedures may continue if a hospital or provider determines any delay in the procedure will pose a significant risk to quality of life.

If an elective procedure poses a risk to quality of life, hospitals must still reserve 10% of its ICU beds and 10% of medical and surgical beds for COVID-19 patients. Hospitals also can't move COVID-19 patients to make space for elective procedures. 

What is still open?

Bowling alleys, pool halls, bingo halls, arcades, indoors playgrounds, and children's play centers can remain open, but they have to close at 10:00 p.m. and can't reopen until 6:00 a.m. the next day. 

Social distancing has to be followed and everyone inside must wear masks, unless their seated at a table to eat or drink. These places have to limit group sizes to eight people, unless they're of the same household, but cannot host private social gatherings larger than 15 people indoors or 30 people outdoors.

The proclamation says the following places may remain open while ensuring social distance:

  • Movie theaters
  • Performance venues
  • Museums
  • Aquariums
  • Zoos
  • Libraries
  • Swimming Pools
  • Amusement Parks
  • Campgrounds
  • Retail stores
  • Race tracks and speedways
  • Medical Spas

Malls may remain open, but all play areas and playgrounds must remain closed.

While many salons, barbershops, message therapies, tattoo parlors, and tanning places already require masks, this proclamation formalizes the requirement.

Casinos and other gaming facilities may remain open but must ensure social distancing between guests. The proclamation mentions barriers and turning off alternating gaming machines as ways to achieve social distancing.

The proclamation prohibits all group fitness activities at fitness centers, health clubs, health spas, and gyms. While masks are mandated inside, if you can't social distance for at least 15 minutes, a person engaging in physical exercise is exempt from wearing a mask.

READ: The latest proclamation below

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