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Iowa Governor Signs Law Immediately Banning School Mask Requirements

The Greene County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution mandating face coverings.
Michael Leland
IPR file
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law early Thursday morning that bans school mask requirements.

This story was updated Thursday, May 20 at 1:15 a.m.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law just after midnight Thursday that immediately made it illegal to require masks in schools. It also prevents cities and counties from having mask mandates that affect private property.

Republicans in the Iowa Legislature passed the bill Wednesday night after introducing the legislation that morning.

"The state of Iowa is putting parents back in control of their child's education and taking greater steps to protect the rights of all Iowans to make their own health care decisions," Reynolds said in a statement. "I am proud to be a governor of a state that values personal responsibility and individual liberties. I want to thank the Iowa Legislature for their quick work in bringing this bill to my desk so that it can be signed into law."

The CDC announced last week that vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks in most settings. But the CDC recommends that schools continue to require masks through the end of the school year, which is just a few days away for most Iowa schools. Kids under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

The Iowa Department of Public Health has recommended that face coverings be optional in schools, but some schools in the state kept their requirements in place.

Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said this is about freedom.

“If we believe that vaccines work, if we believe that masks work, then fine, get the vaccine, wear the mask, and don’t worry about what other people are doing,” Holt said. “You be you, and you let them be them.”

Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott, D-Windsor Heights, said her friend had to pull her medically vulnerable son and his siblings out of school because his school abruptly ended its mask requirement.

“The kids didn’t get to say goodbye to their friends. They missed band concerts, choir concerts. There were lots of tears this week,” Trone Garriott said. “But it’s not safe for them to be around unmasked, unvaccinated people in a building because Hans’ life is on the line. They can’t risk him. And it’s been horrible these last three days. Is that really what you want for medically vulnerable children all over Iowa?”

Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, said parents should get to decide if their kids wear face coverings.

“I listened to parents in my district frustrated that their kids had to go to school in masks all the time,” Wheeler said.

Democrats voted against the legislation, saying it’s overreach by the state that could prevent communities from responding to local health emergencies in the future.

“This is about public health,” said Rep. Marti Anderson, D-Des Moines. “People may not want to wear a mask. I didn’t like wearing a mask. I hated it. But don’t we have a responsibility to protect the health of the people around us?”

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter