Story County Board of Health passes mask mandate

The Story County Board of Health recommends the use of face masks and face shields in COVID-19 mitigation guidelines.

The Story County Board of Health recommends the use of face masks and face shields in COVID-19 mitigation guidelines.

Kylee Haueter

The Story County Board of Health passed a mask mandate in a public hearing Wednesday that affects Story County.

The mask mandate states that anyone indoors in a public place and anyone outdoors without the ability to maintain 6 feet of space must be wearing a mask or else be charged with a simple misdemeanor and fined.

Story County Board of Health Chairman Dr. John Paschen started the meeting by addressing the emails that had been sent prior to the meeting and gave a summary of what the emails said.

Louisa Tabatabai, board member and professor at Iowa State, said she believes the mandate will protect the community.

“The way it is written, it sounds very good, very progressive,” Tabatabai said. “I hope people will take notice of all the different sections and how it will protect not just our family, our neighbors, our community but everyone in Story County.”

Vice Chairman Mark Speck said he doesn’t feel the Board of Health has the jurisdiction or the ability to enforce penalties, but Paschen said the mandate needs to “have teeth in it” to be of any effect.

Paschen also said that in most cities, the mask mandate is used more for enforcement of face coverings in businesses as opposed to searching out and giving a fine to those that are not wearing masks in public.

“It’s a human nature thing,” Paschen said. “I kind of think people will think, if you don’t have teeth, why do it?”

Tabatabai also said she does agree with the penalty.

“My mask protects you, your mask protects me,” she said, quoting a committee from Brigham Young University.

Board member Molly Lee clarified that the meeting was not to make a mask mandate that would go into immediate effect but to draft a mandate for approval by the Board of Supervisors to pass once the time comes and if given the authority by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

John Kluge, board member and past professor at Iowa State, said the mask mandate would help give Iowa State support in their enforcement of a mask mandate and to give peace of mind to the community of Ames, being that the city is in the middle of a hotspot.

During the public hearing portion, two community members spoke up in opposition to the mandate as written.

Two other community members and Iowa State graduate students spoke up in favor of the mandate.

“I think that the potential fine for not wearing a mask is a great idea,” said Hannah Wickham, Iowa State graduate student in toxicology. “Honestly, you could be doing everything right. You could be wearing your own mask, social distancing, only grocery shopping a limited amount of time, but if the person next to you is not wearing a mask and not staying 6 feet apart, your life will still be at risk.”

Board of Supervisors member Lauris Olson brought up a concern that the wording in the third section of the proposal could be seen as contradictory, but Assistant County Attorney Ethan Anderson said it was not contradictory in a way that would change the outcome in a court of law.

The Board of Health voted to keep the wording as is, saying the possible contradiction was “a matter of semantics” and that it was not in conflict.

Paschen and Anderson also clarified that for a child under 18 if caught without a mask, the penalty would fall under the discretion of the officer and that it could result in a warning, a call to the parent or a fine most likely given to the parent.

The mandate would not be enforceable in Ames, where the city mandate would take precedence. Paschen said if this mandate is put into effect, he sees it as a strong possibility that Ames City Council would amend their mandate to include a penalty.

Speck proposed a motion to pass the mandate without any enforcement capabilities, but the motion was not seconded.

Kluge motioned to pass the mandate as written, seconded by Tabatabai. The mandate passed 4-1 with Speck being the only dissenter.

The vote to send the mandate to the Board of Supervisors also passed 4-1, with Speck again being the only dissenting vote. The mandate will now go to the Board of Supervisors who will view it and make a decision Thursday.