Mask mandate: No mask, no service


Due to lack of authority, the Ames City Council voted in favor of a city mask mandate with no penalty but will use education to encourage enforcment.

A week after the city of Ames made a mask mandate effective on Sept. 4, local business owners share their thoughts. This comes on the heels of the New York Times dropping an article calling Ames one of the worst cities for COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Every person in the City of Ames three years of age or older must wear a face covering that completely covers the person’s nose.” the Council’s ordinance stated.

The ordinance stated one of the circumstances that would require a mask is, “Inside any indoor setting or establishment where the public is invited in, including, but not limited to: Grocery, retail, and hardware stores, gas stations and convenience stores, fitness centers, pharmacies, any other indoor public setting when with persons who do not live in the person’s household, and other public settings that are not the person’s place of residence.”

Rachel Junck, Ames City Council 4th Ward representative, said though the mandate is still recent, she has already seen positive developments coming out of it.

“I have seen more community members wearing their masks while out in public, specifically at grocery stores,” Junck said. “Several businesses around town have put up new signage to help spread the word about the face covering ordinance, and hopefully that has resulted in higher compliance.”

Many restaurants in Campustown and other popular parts of Ames have signs in their windows or front doors that require customers to wear a mask before entering.

Jeff Uetz, owner of Jeff’s Pizza Shop, said he hopes the mask mandate “contains the spread” of COVID-19. While another requirement for customers may cause discord, Uetz said he hasn’t seen any negatives and everyone that has entered his establishment has followed the rules. “Usually everyone is pretty compliant.”

Even though businesses appear to be complying with the mask mandate, it is also important to see how students react as they too now have to be aware of another rule.

Travis Berhenke, a sophomore in mechanical engineering, said while he felt the mandate essential due to the spike in Ames, he also thinks everyone has been much more aware lately.

“I feel like it’s needed to keep everyone safe in Ames,” Berhenke said. “I haven’t really eaten out that much. Usually when I get food I just bring it home, but I haven’t been scared to because I feel like everyone is doing their part.”

Junck is hoping this ordinance is not viewed as a restriction or punishment but more as another avenue to educate people on the importance of wearing a mask.

“One of the ways we are aiming to educate the public about the ordinance is by having city of Ames police officers carry masks around with them and provide them to citizens as a tool for education,” Junck said.

The Ames City Council has been discussing the implementation of a mask mandate since July and the topic has only become more relevant as the current number of positive COVID-19 cases in Story County is past 3,000.

“The ordinance could be changed to include a penalty in the future,” Junck said. “There have been three council members including myself consistently in support of a mandate with enforcement from the start, and so it would have to be brought back up by one of the dissenting council members. There are several factors that could necessitate the penalty being brought back up, including what action the Story County supervisors might take on a county ordinance.”