Official: Dubuque County mandate still to take effect; 68,000 masks to be distributed

While Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a statewide mask mandate on Monday night, a leading Dubuque County official said the county’s mandate — stricter in some respects than the governor’s — still will go into effect this week.

Dubuque County Board of Health Chairman Tom Bechen said Monday night that the county’s mask mandate will proceed to go into effect despite, and in addition to, the governor’s new rules.

“I didn’t hear anything in the governor’s announcement that would change anything going on here with our mandate,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Dubuque County Health Department plans to deliver 68,000 disposable masks today.

They will be dropped off at sites so local businesses can have them available for customers in accordance with the countywide mask mandate, which still will go into effect on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

That mandate was approved before Reynolds’ announcement on Monday night of mask requirements statewide. The local mask deliveries make good on a promise made by the Dubuque County Board of Health to provide the masks its mandate requires to be held at businesses’ entrances for customers who enter without a face covering.

Passed unanimously at a special meeting of the county Board of Supervisors on Thursday, the county mandate requires people older than 2 to wear face coverings in interior public spaces and businesses; on public transportation or when using a private car service; and when outside if they are unable to maintain 6 feet of distance from others. Exceptions are included for those with breathing difficulty or under oxygen treatment, or those legally or medically required not to wear masks. The mandate runs through March 1.

In contrast, the state mandate, which takes effect today, requires that people ages 2 or older wear masks or face coverings while in an indoor public space when they cannot socially distance for 15 minutes or longer.

That measure makes exceptions for groups such as people working alone or in spaces where physical distancing can be maintained, individuals consuming food or drinks while seated at a restaurant or bar, and people engaged in physical exercise.

With the Dubuque County mandate about to take effect, distributing masks is a priority, and local municipalities will serve as a go-between for the delivery of masks from the county to local businesses.

“The larger ones (Dubuque, Dyersville and Cascade), we’re giving 10,000 (each),” said County Health Department Director Patrice Lambert on Monday night. “The medium-sized towns, we’re giving 5,000. The smaller towns, we’re giving 1,000.”

The county’s mask mandate also requires signage to be posted at businesses’ entrances indicating the requirement to wear masks inside.

The department might need to purchase more masks and pay for any printing or other supplies as become needed.

“We should think about freeing up enough funds so Patrice doesn’t have to wait for our next approval,” Bechen said.

To that end, Board of Health members approved authority for Lambert to use whatever she needed, up to $50,000.

This money will come from state funding the county already received for COVID-19 prevention purposes.