Dubuque City Council unanimously votes to end mask mandate

Dubuque’s face mask mandate is being repealed.

City Council members on Wednesday voted unanimously to end the mandate requiring anyone older than 2 to wear face masks while in public to lessen the chances of spreading COVID-19. The ordinance had been in place in the city since August, but council members had indicated during their regularly scheduled meeting Monday that they would vote to lift it.

The mandate officially is repealed with the newly approved ordinance printed in the city’s official newspaper, the Telegraph Herald, today.

The move follows the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors’ decision on Friday to end its own face mask ordinance, following a change in guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday that stated fully vaccinated individuals do not need a face covering in public in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Council Member Laura Roussell said Wednesday that the council always based its decisions on the advice of local, state and national health experts, and that advice now points toward not requiring vaccinated residents to wear face masks.

“All along we have listened to our health providers,” she said. “A lot of Dubuque residents followed those guidelines and got vaccinated, and now, we can benefit from that.”

City Council members originally adopted the ordinance in order to curb a rising number of COVID-19 positive cases in the city. Some opponents and officials, including Gov. Kim Reynolds, argued that local municipalities did not have the standing to issue such mandates — a claim that local officials rejected.

Some city residents have opposed the requirement since, and in September, a petition was filed asking that it be lifted, but council members insisted that it be kept in place while the risk of COVID-19 was still prominent in the community.

The data shows a dramatically different picture of COVID-19 in Dubuque County now, compared to when the mandate was instituted.

At that time, there had been 726 new COVID-19 cases in the county in the previous four weeks, there were 643 active cases, and the two-week positivity rate was 14.5%.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the county has had 200 new COVID-19 cases over the previous four weeks, there were 203 active cases, and the 14-day positivity rate stood at 1.6%.

Additionally, federal data showed that as of Wednesday about 60% of Dubuque County residents who are at least 16 years old are fully vaccinated against COVId-19.

During Wednesday night’s meeting, Council Member Brad Cavanagh called for residents who are not vaccinated to continue to wear face masks in order to prevent a potential resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

“We are now as a community taking on a risk that everyone in the community needs to recognize,” he said. “We still need everyone that is not vaccinated to have a face covering and wear it.”

Council Member Ric Jones said he was concerned by an attempt by the Legislature to pass legislation that would prohibit school districts from requiring students to wear face masks.

“I can’t believe the school district would do that with 11 school days left,” Jones said. “I am going to vote for this, but there is now trepidation that I didn’t have Monday.”

At about the same time as the special City Council meeting was being held Wednesday, Dubuque Community Schools announced that it was making masks optional starting on Friday, May 21.