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No mask ordinance for Hamilton County

Motion to set date for mandate vote dies for lack of a second

By ANNE BLANKENSHIP

ablankenship@freemanjournal.net

The Hamilton County Board of Supervisors was poised to vote on a county-wide mask ordinance Tuesday morning, but found that the ordinance would only have affected those in unincorporated areas of the county. Towns and cities in the county would not have been part of the mandate.

Hamilton County would have been just the second county in the state to pass such an ordinance. Johnson County passed a similar measure earlier this month. A handful of cities across the state have also passed mandates requiring face coverings. Gov. Kim Reynolds has so far refused to issue a statewide mandate.

The idea for the ordinance came from the Hamilton County Board of Health. Last Thursday, the board voted to approve a mask ordinance and passed it on to the supervisors.

Chairman Doug Bailey said the ordinance would have required three readings to be passed.

Public Health Director Shelby Kroona explained the reasoning behind the proposed mask ordinance.

She said that even though the ordinance would only be in effect for unincorporated areas of the county, it would be a “first step.”

“We are in the midst of a national epidemic, a world pandemic, a health disaster that has impacted our country, in some places worse than others,” she said, adding,” but we have all been impacted — whether we’ve been sick or not, we all have experienced the shutdown and now the reopening of our communities. We’ve all experienced the confusion and anxiety of living with unanswered questions about this virus.”

Kroona said Iowans can help their neighbors by physically distancing, limiting gathering sizes and wearing face masks.

“Science tells us that masks will help lower our positivity rate,” she said. States that have enacted mask programs are seeing dramatic reductions in the spread of the virus, according to Kroona.

“When I wear a mask, I’m not protecting myself, I’m wearing my mask to protect you,” she said. “We want our family, friends and the community to stay healthy. Wearing a mask increases these chances. This isn’t a political matter.”

She added that her office is having a difficult time contact tracing certain cases.

Duane Hendrickson, chairman of the board of health, said masks have been strongly recommended since spring, to prevent further disease spread.

The Supervisors heard from several strong opponents of the proposed ordinance.

Kevin Lunn of Jewell said he was opposed to contact tracing and suggested as a proactive measure, hydroxychloroquine could be used. Hydroxychloroquine is an immunosuppressant drug that has been used to treat malaria and lupus.

Lunn also said masks do not work.

“Science says that masks do not work. Having a mask on, you breathe more CO2 (carbon dioxide),” he said.

Dr. Nikki Ehn, a local physician, refuted the claim that masks don’t work.

“There’s now good science that shows wearing masks does reduce the spread of coronavirus. The novel coronavirus, while in the family of the common cold, is new to humans, That’s why it has wrecked such havoc globally,” she said. “It continues to wreck havoc in areas that aren’t taking measures to prevent its spread.”

Ehn said a cloth face mask is not a perfect preventative strategy, which is why it should be used in conjunction with good hand washing practices, good hygiene and social distancing.

She said there have been no reputable studies that certain medications are good for prevention of the virus, and in fact some medications have “very dangerous” side effects if not used appropriately.

“Beware of any silver bullets,” she said.

Sheriff Doug Timmons said he believed that enforcing the mask ordinance would fall to his deputies.

“It would be almost impossible to enforce,” he said. He added that his officers would likely be more willing to simply educate those in violation.

Robert Johnson of Stanhope said he would like to keep his freedom to choose.

“I have no problem with someone wearing a mask, but when I am told that I have to (wear a mask), that gets under my skin,” he said. “We have freedoms in this county and I appreciate the freedoms in this country.

“I would enjoy that (the freedoms) are passed down to my children and not slowly taken away from me,” he said.

Roger Hayes of Stanhope said he was at the meeting on behalf of the Lions Club. The club is having a fund raiser and many members can’t wear masks for long periods of time due to health issues.

“So what happens when the police show up? Are they going to get fined if they can’t wear them for health reasons? Will they be fined?” he asked Kroona. “Would they be required to disclose the health issue?”

The proposed ordinance stated that first offenses “shall be punished by the minimum fines for a simple misdemeanor.

Hayes said he believed there would no standard if the law enforcement is allowed to use their judgment on each case.

“It’s kind of a slippery slope,” he said.

Hayes also questioned why Kroona had removed her mask to speak to the audience and questioned why the podium had been touched by all the speakers with no sanitation in between.

Patrick Wiedemeyer, a local pastor, said the secondary effects of the lock-down included depression, anxiety, increased suicides and child abuse. He said had the ordinance passed, he would have challenged the matter, asking a court to enjoin the ordinance.

Lori Isvik of rural Jewell said she supported the mask ordinance.

“I respect other people and like it when they respect me,” she said. “And I feel that this is what this is – a respect issue.”

Isvik said if the mask mandate was passed, that perhaps more people would come to the community to shop.

“I know I would,” she said. Others in the audience responded with loud “nos.”

Isvik turned to those who interrupted her and said, “I’m speaking right now and I ask for your respect.”

“I go to stores that require (masks); if a store doesn’t require them, I don’t go,” she said.

Two supervisors said they would not support the passage of the mask ordinance. Rick Young said the coronavirus is a serious matter, but didn’t believe that the police or sheriff’s deputies would be able to enforce the measure.

“I’ve listened to the sheriff and the people of the greater Hamilton County. And I want people to know I will not support a mandate,” he said.

Dan Campidilli thanked those who offered input. He added that he had many phone calls and emails from area residents. He said none of those were in favor of the measure. He related comments from one resident who said they would wear a mask if required by a store or by the schools for athletic events.

“I think that’s the right idea,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t support the mandate.

Doug Bailey said there was no perfect answer to the situation.

“If this ordinance or some modification of the ordinance came to the board, I would more than likely be in favor of it. I just think whatever can be done to slow this thing down and flatten the curve,” he said. “It’s not about me, it’s not about you. It’s about us. We’re all in this together.”

“It’s not about taking freedoms away – it’s common sense,” he said in conclusion.

Bailey offered a motion to set a date for the first reading of the ordinance which failed due to a lack of second.

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