Opinions differed among Page County Board of Supervisors on requiring masks be worn in public spaces in the courthouse during a discussion involving Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds extending her proclamation through Feb. 6.
The governor's proclamation requires people to wear masks if they cannot social distance when in public spaces indoors for longer than 15 minutes.
Supervisor Jacob Holmes cast the sole no vote stating there was no definition during the Jan. 12 supervisors meeting following a motion from Supervisor Alan Armstrong to keep the mask requirement signs on the courthouse doors until Feb. 6. Supervisor Chuck Morris also voted in favor of maintaining the signage currently posted.
At the beginning of the discussion, Morris asked Holmes and Armstrong if changes should be made to the courthouse's mask requirement put in place due to COVID-19. Armstrong noted that the 14-day positivity rate in 55 of Iowa’s counties has been above 15%.
Morris said that early in the pandemic, he consulted with the county’s legal counsel on procedures and legalities of keeping the courthouse open and operating. He feels there are still legitimate concerns about how to operate safely.
Morris explained what advice he was given from legal counsel.
“We had better as a county dot the I’s and cross the t’s because until legislation would take away the ability to sue. If contact tracing comes back to the courthouse, you could be held liable. There was great fear among the legal community of that happening. I’m not sure that has changed. Being persistent with our requirement for masks coming into open spaces in the courthouse should remain in effect,” said Morris.
Holmes asked Morris if the county would line up with Gov. Reynolds’ proclamation or make their own guidelines and regulations.
“The county does have a responsibility to protect our liability,” said Morris.
“Breathing is not necessarily a gigantic liability,” said Holmes.
Holmes questioned language used during previous meetings when talking about mask usage in the courthouse.
“If you want to go outside this, your going to have to define it and see if that’s even legal too if we make some kind of regulations,” said Holmes. “I’m a strong proponent of individual liberty. This socialistic nanny state thinking is a very dangerous, slippery slope. Everybody should do their best to protect people, but I think we should be careful of regulations. We have a pretty big one that was passed by the governor that defines pretty in-depth.”
“So, what's your recommendation?” asked Morris.
“I guess I’m a minority here, but I just think if you're going to write your own, it's going to have to get pretty detailed,” said Holmes. “You’re going to have to lay it out pretty clearly.”
“To me, masks required in the courthouse is clear,” said Morris.
Holmes referred to several instances during past county meetings where supervisors did not require masks be worn.
“I have a lot of faith in Page County residents to do the best like they have the last hundreds of years,” said Holmes. “I do not like proclamations and mandates. We have the common sense to wash our hands and if you’re sick, stay home. I don’t think we need big rules and regulations. It’s going to become a giant thick sheet of paper and create a nanny state. Myself, I’m not for that.”
Armstrong voiced his opinion in favor of keeping the current signage up on the courthouse doors.
“I feel that it's not a major requirement to wear a mask,” said Armstrong.
Armstrong even went as far as to say society may incorporate masks into the new normal in the future as a way to stay healthier.