Virus Outbreak Iowa

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds listens to a question from a reporter during a news conference last week.

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds implemented new restrictions Tuesday in response to growing coronavirus cases that are threatening to overwhelm the state's hospital system.

The new restrictions aim to require masks in many settings — stopping short of a statewide mask mandate opponents are calling for — and limiting large gatherings.

Iowa is third in the nation for virus spread, adjusted per capita, according to a data analysis by the New York Times. Only North and South Dakota rank higher.

Much of the new public health emergency proclamation signed by Reynolds addresses crowds, including limits on crowds at youth and high school sporting events.

The new order goes into effect Wednesday and will continue until at least the end of the month.

Requirements for social distancing of at least 6 feet at social, community, recreational, leisure and sporting events continues from the prior proclamation. The new proclamation restricts groups at those gatherings to be limited to less than eight people, unless the entire group is from the same household.

Indoor events are limited to 25 people unless everyone over the age of 2 years old is wearing a mask, excluding when eating and drinking. Outdoor events are limited to 100 people unless masks are worn by all over 2 years old.

Indoor youth sporting or recreational gatherings will include a limit of two spectators per each youth athlete.

Customers and employees at businesses providing personal services are required to wear masks. Those places include barbershops, salons, massage therapy establishments, tattoo establishments and tanning facilities.

Bars and restaurants will remain open but received additional mandates. They must continue to ensure 6 feet of distancing between each group or individual dining or drinking. Additionally, all patrons must be seated to be served. Seated groups are limited to less than eight people, unless the entire group is part of the same household.

Social distancing and group limits will also now apply to places like bowling alleys, pool halls, bingo halls, arcades, indoor playgrounds and children's play centers.

Reynolds' order also directs all workplaces in Iowa to reassess whether there are employees who can work remotely and take such steps if reasonable.

What the order does not include is a statewide mask mandate. Reynolds has resisted that call thus far. In her proclamation, she says she continues to "strongly encourage all Iowans 2 or older to wear a mask or other face covering when in public settings, especially in circumstances when it is not possible to remain 6 feet away from others outside their household, unless it is unsafe to do so because of health or disability."

The proclamation says Iowans should be cautious of high-risk activity. Examples provided included weddings, funerals, holiday celebrations, conventions and vacations, among others.

Reynolds said local law enforcement will enforce the new proclamation and mandates. Those not abiding by the rules can be charged with a simple misdemeanor.

“The mandates that we put in place right now are targeted to where we're seeing potential spread,” she said. “So we believe that that's the right action to take at this time.”

Reynolds again asked Iowans to “do the right” thing to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

“I'm here to tell Iowans, I need your help,” she said. “If you want to keep our businesses open, if you want to keep our kids in school, if you want to make sure that we have hospitals and long-term care facilities, and we have clinics that can treat not only COVID patients but that they can treat other individuals that have serious health conditions that need to go to the hospital, then we all have to buckle down and take this seriously. It spreads; it's very contagious."

Kyle Ocker is the group editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the first vice president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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