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OUR OPINION: Mask mandates send stronger message than just suggestions

OUR OPINION: Mask mandates send stronger message than just suggestions

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If Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds isn't willing to order a statewide mask mandate, as the White House coronavirus task force recommends, then at least she should give local officials the authority to issue one for their counties or communities.

A recent spike in Iowa coronavirus cases is getting national attention. Consider:

* Last Thursday, the state reported 1,477 new coronavirus cases, the most reported in one day since the virus arrived in Iowa.

* On Saturday, the state's 14-day rolling total of positive cases reached a record high of 11,091.

* On Monday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 12 counties have a positivity rate of greater than 15 percent, a threshold at which schools may apply for a waiver to change to online-only learning (five counties have a positivity rate of more than 20 percent).

* In a report published on Sunday, the White House coronavirus task force said Iowa's new coronavirus cases per 100,000 population last week ranked highest in the country, almost triple the national average. Among its recommendations is a statewide mandate Iowans wear face masks in public.

A statewide order would be the most effective step for Reynolds to take in forcing more usage of face masks, but she's opposed to the idea and as we write this we sense no inclination on her part to rethink her position.

At a minimum, we believe, Reynolds should respond to the recent flurry of troubling Iowa virus data by freeing local leaders to impose and enforce face mask requirements - something prohibited by the governor's coronavirus public health proclamation.

A projection based on current fatality and infection rates by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine and issued last month said consistent nationwide usage of face masks could save some 70,000 lives over the next several months.

Whether statewide or local, face mask mandates with a promise of enforcement send that important message in stronger fashion than a recommendation for use too many Iowans ignore.

Our Opinion editorials represent the consensus view of The Sioux City Journal editorial board. Members of the board include: Bruce Miller, editor; Michael Gors, editorial page editor; Dave Dreeszen; managing editor; Tim Hynds, chief photographer.

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