Months after calling mask mandates a 'feel-good' measure, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issues emergency mask mandate

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued the emergency mandate on Monday.
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Nine months into the pandemic, Iowa has enacted an emergency face mask mandate as COVID-19 continues to tighten its grip on the Upper Midwest. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who earlier this year said stay-at-home orders and mask mandates that most U.S. states enacted were "feel-good" measures that made little impact, issued the mandate Monday. It is only in effect until Thursday, Dec. 10 at 11:59 p.m., though she said further restrictions could be added after evaluating the state's health crisis in one week. 

Like Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Reynolds also ordered bars and restaurants to close indoor service by 10 p.m. and elective surgeries that require inpatient care are being sharply reduced to save hospital capacity. 

Reynolds said one of four people hospitalized in Iowa have COVID-19, and the state now has more than 1,500 people with the virus being cared for in a hospital, according to the health department. 

That's around the same number of people hospitalized with COVID in Minnesota, despite Iowa's population being 57% the size of Minnesota's.

Here's what Reynolds said in a radio interview in July when asked about a mask mandate, according to NPR

"No, I'm not going to mandate masks. I trust Iowans. I believe in Iowans," Reynolds told WHO. "There's no way to enforce it. Most of the states or entities that have done that, they've actually gone as far as to say we're not going to enforce it, so it's just kind of a feel-good."

Reynolds reiterated in her Monday speech that there's still no way to enforce all Iowans to wear masks. 

"This isn't about mandates. This isn't about government. There isn't enough law enforcement in the country to make sure that every Iowan is wearing a mask when they should. There aren't enough sheriffs in Iowa's 99 counties to shut down every non-compliant bar. If Iowans don't buy into this, we lose. Business will close once again, more schools will be forced to go online and our healthcare system will fail – and the cost in human life will be high," Reynolds said. 

"Now is the time to come together for the greater good, to look out for each other, not because you're told to, but because it's the right thing to do." 

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