WATERLOO — At least five of the city’s six council members present at a work session Monday indicated they would likely support a citywide mask mandate if it comes before the council.
Waterloo Ward 2 council member Jonathan Grieder introduced a resolution Monday that would require everyone within city limits to wear a cloth face covering in all indoor public places as well as outdoors if maintaining a six-foot distance was not possible.
Grieder said the mask mandate was necessary to “significantly reduce the spread” of coronavirus, saying he had consulted 15 scientific studies that are all in agreement cloth masks help aid in that goal.
“We are in the middle of a pandemic,” Grieder said. “Iowa is one of the states in the union that has neither a state mandate nor a local mandate. All the while, we are seeing the numbers of COVID cases increase.”
Though the council does not vote at work sessions, council members Sharon Juon, Jerome Amos, Pat Morrissey and Dave Boesen indicated preliminary support for Grieder’s resolution. Ward 5 council member Ray Feuss was absent.
“Whether (people) think it is against their right or not, what about the right of individuals that don’t want to be infected by this disease?” Amos said.
Saying she was “150% in favor of this,” Juon wanted to know if legal action had been taken against Iowa City, which has also mandated masks.
Grieder said he had contacted officials there, as well as in Muscatine and Johnson County where mask mandates are also in effect, and said none had been threatened with any legal action.
“In a normal time, I’m a pretty live-and-let-live type of guy,” Grieder said. “The issue is here, what we know from COVID is it’s spread by asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people. It’s spread by people who don’t really know that they’re sick.”
Morrissey asked if Grieder had planned on adding a six-week sunset clause. Grieder said he was in favor of doing that, similar to what Iowa City has done.
“I am in no way suggesting that I want us to wear masks forever; I want us to wear masks when there’s a pandemic going on,” Grieder said. “Hopefully, this will not last forever.”
Morrissey then asked several questions about Mayor Quentin Hart’s existing mask mandate at Waterloo City Hall, including whether City Council members sitting in council chambers are expected to wear masks while in meetings.
That irked Ward 1 council member Margaret Klein, who accused Morrissey of targeting her. Klein was the only council member seated in the chambers, while the rest attended on Zoom.
“This is exactly why I can’t support this sort of thing, because this is what it causes — people turning in their neighbors, children turning in their parents,” Klein said. “I have bumped into people that are absolutely dedicated to living in a safe manner, but what they don’t like is a heavy-handed, ‘you’re gonna do it or I’m gonna turn you in.’”
But Boesen, though he supported the resolution, argued enforcement might be impossible.
“Anti-maskers are as adamant about this as anti-vaxxers are,” Boesen said, referring to people who refuse to get their children medically recommended vaccinations. “You’ve got people out there (saying), ‘You’re never gonna force us to wear masks.’ So I hope we can work those issues out and be on a more encouraging recommendation.”
Hart asked Grieder to run the resolution by the city attorney before bringing it to a regular council meeting. No date was set.
“The enemy is the virus,” Hart said. “The more we can move away from the politics and more towards the protection around those that we live with and we work with, the more that we can do to protect our community, the better off we will be.”
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