Gov. Reynolds restricts gatherings, businesses; institutes mask policy


Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds listens to a question from the press during a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. (Screenshot from Iowa PBS on YouTube)
By: 
Jake Ryder
Eclipse News-Review

In response to a Iowa hospital system under strain from the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has announced new restrictions on social gatherings and businesses in Iowa, which will require attendees in the majority of public settings to wear masks and will limit the number of people that will be able to gather in one spot, whether indoors or outdoors.

Indoor gatherings of more than 15 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 30 people are prohibited unless the groups are members of the same household. These restrictions do not apply to schools, churches, or the Iowa Legislature when it reconvenes in January, should the restrictions still be in place.

Masks are also required in indoor spaces open to the public if people will occupy the space for 15 minutes or longer and cannot maintain six feet of social distance between individuals. Beyond the time requirement, however, there are many other exemptions to the rule, and Gov. Reynolds concluded her Monday evening remarks with an appeal to Iowans.

"I'm asking you tonight to work with me, to think of your family, your friends and all of your fellow Iowans," Reynolds said. "Think of the health-care heroes that have been taking care of us since the beginning of the pandemic. … It's important to step up and slow the spread to make sure that Iowans stay safe.

"There isn't enough law enforcement in the country to make sure every Iowan is wearing a mask when they should. … If Iowans don't buy into this, we lose. Businesses will close once again, more schools will be forced to go online and our health care system will fail, and the cost in human life will be high."

The restrictions take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 17 and will be in place until at least Dec. 10, 2020.

The number of people hospitalized while testing positive for COVID-19 has placed a strain on the state's hospital systems. As of 4 p.m. on Nov. 16, 1,392 Iowans were in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those hospitalized, 271 are in intensive care units.

"Because of the high level of community spread at this time, we're vulnerable to the virus even in casual gatherings with friends, neighbors and extended family members," Gov. Reynolds said in a press conference last week. "I know we're all experiencing pandemic fatigue, but we can't let our guard down just because we're getting together with people we know or doing things that are most familiar to us."

Butler County has reported 163 new positive cases since Nov. 9, for a total of 764 positive cases. Of those cases, 528 have been flagged as recovered. According to the state's coronavirus database, five Butler County residents were confirmed as patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Nov. 14.

For high school, collegiate and professional sports, competition can continue, but only two spectators will be permitted for each competing athlete, and all non-athletes must wear masks. This restriction notably does not apply to the high school football playoffs, scheduled for Nov. 12-14 and Nov. 19-20 at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. Attendance at the UNI-Dome will be limited, however, to 15% of the Dome's capacity, or 2,400 fans. The governor's office had previously said that the UNI-Dome would not be subject to these restrictions, but UNI leadership changed course prior to the semifinals. All non-athletes must wear masks and will be spaced out into pods based on groups of tickets sold.

Restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, arcades and indoor playgrounds must not only require masks unless seated, but also limit their hours to close at 10 p.m. and not open until 6 a.m. the following day.

People working at or soliciting services from salons, barbershops, massage therapy establishments and tanning facilites are also mandated to wear masks except when performing face services.

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