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City Of Dubuque Joins Growing List Of Local Communities Passing Face Covering Mandates

The City of Dubuque has passed its own local face covering mandate, in defiance of the governor's position that such orders are unenforceable.
Madeleine King
/
IPR

The City of Dubuque has joined the growing list of Iowa communities to issue a local face covering mandate, defying Gov. Kim Reynolds’ opinion that the local orders are unenforceable.

The city council unanimously passed the ordinance Thursday night, which requires residents and visitors to wear a face covering in all indoor public settings, and outdoors if social distancing isn’t possible, with some exceptions. It also directs businesses to deny service to customers who don’t comply.

Not complying with the ordinance could result in a municipal infraction, and an initial fine of $10.

“We’ve done it in a voluntary way, mask or no mask in a voluntary way, for five months now. Five dangerous, deadly months. I think we need to make it stronger and I think the community can come together for this."
David Resnik, Dubuque City Councilmember

“We’ve done it in a voluntary way, mask or no mask in a voluntary way, for five months now. Five dangerous, deadly months. I think we need to make it stronger and I think the community can come together for this,” said City Councilmember David Resnik.

Police Chief Mark Dalsing told council members that his officers will enforce the mandate regardless of their personal views on what has become a divisive and controversial issue. Still, he says the focus will be on education, not punishment.

“I think for the most part we’re probably going to see compliance. Maybe they go around the corner and stop complying, but we can do what we can do,” Dalsing said. “There is a possibility that somebody is going to try to make a political stand and force the issue, and we’ll see where that goes.”

Earlier this week, the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce called on Reynolds to grant local communities the authority to issue their own mandates, after the White House Coronavirus Task Force labeled Dubuque County a covid red zone.

Council member Laura Roussell said uncontrolled community spread of the virus will continue to devastate the local economy, and the families who rely on a robust economic market to meet their basic needs.

“I’m thinking of people, moms and dads who could lose their job because their place of employment had to shut down. Or people who are unable to put food on the table because they’re not working,” Roussell said. “It’s so important to get that back under control.”

City Attorney Crenna Brumwell told the council that she believes the order is enforceable, under Iowa’s home rule provisions. Until a state-level legal analysis demonstrates that such local mandates are irreconcilable with state law or the governor’s emergency orders, she said it’s her opinion they’re valid.

"In fact, requiring masks is quite consistent with what the governor has ordered at the state level under her emergency management authority."
Crenna Brumwell, Dubuque City Attorney

“We’ve reached the determination again that these two things are not irreconcilable. And in fact, requiring masks is quite consistent with what the governor has ordered at the state level under her emergency management authority,” Brumwell said.

In justifying the face covering mandate, city councilmembers said they’re very worried about a resurgence in virus transmission as schools reopen in a matter of weeks. And they said they’re deeply saddened by the county’s death toll, which as of Thursday evening stood at 31 people.

Councilmember Ric Jones said that the impact of the virus is personal to him, and that he’s acutely aware of the risk to his loved ones, and to himself.

“My neighbor came home this afternoon, in the hospital with COVID, he told me he thought he was going to die. He was sure of it,” Jones said.

“Thirty-one people in this little bitty Dubuque County area of 100,000 people have lost their lives to this. That’s a pretty good chunk of people,” he continued. “If I catch this virus, my survival is extremely unlikely. So it’s personal on every level.”

The mandate will go into effect upon publication in the local newspaper, which is slated for Saturday, though city officials don’t intend to start enforcing it until Monday August 10.