On Feb. 5, Governor Kim Reynolds announced the statewide mask candidate was to be lifted on Feb. 7 amidst a decline in overall case numbers and hospitalizations.
Reynolds updated the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, eliminating most of the restrictions placed to stop the spread of the virus. Reynolds encouraged Iowans to still limit contact and be cautious even without the statewide mandate.
“I strongly encourage that all businesses or other employers remaining open with in-person operations take reasonable measures under the circumstances of each establishment to ensure the health of employees, patrons, and members of the public, including social distancing practices, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19…” the proclamation said.
Reynolds faced criticism for the decision both locally and nationally.
“I trust Iowans to do the right thing,” Reynolds said during a press conference on Feb. 10. “I know our businesses will do the right thing, too. They’re doing it every day. Our schools are doing the right thing. I don’t think they need me to say mandated.”
After the announcement of the mandate being lifted, Des Moines mayor Frank Cownie said that the city’s mask mandate will still be in effect.
According to the Washington Post, Cownie said he was confused by the governor’s decision because it “can’t be rationalized with the number of positive cases we continue to see across the state and here in Polk County.”
Many other mayors in Iowa cities have decided to continue the mandate and still enforce restrictions.
Drake University has continued to have COVID-19 protocols for students in order to keep the spread of the virus on campus to a minimum even with the mandate being lifted.
Drake student Camryn Huyser said she understands why people are upset with the lifting of the mandate, but is hopeful that people will take responsibility and wear masks for their and others safety.
“I hope now that people really think about the consequences of not wearing one and hope people continue to wear them because it’s important to keep everyone safe and healthy,” Huyser said.
Many students were surprised the governor would lift the mandate so soon with the vaccine becoming more available.
Sophomore Megan Cook said she was shocked by the decision initially, but not surprised because of how many states are starting to lift restrictions.
Cook said she hopes that people still are safe and smart and are wearing masks for themselves and those with health issues.
“I hope that the vaccine becomes more accessible now that masks are not required,” Cook said
Whittaker Friedman, a sophomore at Drake, said he was a bit shocked with the decision, but will still wear a mask for his own safety and those around him.
“It hasn’t directly affected my life, but I know it may affect others around me,” Friedman said. “I will still continue to wear my mask as required by Drake, and will do what I can to ensure the safety of myself as well as those around me.”