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The Jones County Board of Health approved a proclamation at its Sept. 25 meeting strongly encouraging the wearing of masks in public. The proclamation is not a mandate and does not include enforcement mechanisms or penalties for not wearing masks.

The proclamation is similar to a proclamation issued in August by Gov. Kim Reynolds “all Iowans two years of age or older to wear a mask or other face-covering when in public settings, especially in circumstances when it is not possible to remain six feet away from others outside their household unless it is unsafe to do so because of health or disability.”

Within the proclamation, the Board of Health advised a number of mitigation strategies that should be adhered to at all times.

• Stay home when unwell.

• Wash hands often with both soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

• Practice social distancing between yourself and other people (at least six feet).

• Cover your mouth and nose with a face-covering/shield especially in instances when social distancing is not feasible and/or other means to provide separation are not present.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue away.

• Clean and disinfect touched surfaces and objects frequently.

• Consult your healthcare provider or public health if you have questions.

The proclamation ended by stating, “the Jones County Board of Health strongly encourages Jones County residents and all visitors to the County to wear face coverings while in public around individuals who do not reside in your household, especially when social distancing measures cannot be maintained.”

At the Sept. 29 Jones County Board of Supervisors meeting, the supervisors were asked to sign onto the proclamation as well. Instead of forcing everyone to wear a mask, Jones County Board of Health President Lyle Theisen told the supervisors this proclamation was the strongest step that could be taken.

Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach questioned whether the proclamation was needed.

“Why bother when it’s not any stronger than it was before?” he asked.

“Because you’re saying it’s important, that it makes a difference,” Jones County Public Health Director Jenna Lovaas said in response.

The supervisors tabled action on the proclamation at their Sept. 29 meeting to allow time for public input. The matter was set to be re-addressed at the Oct. 6 meeting.

In addition to the proclamation, Jones County Public Health released a separate press release reiterating that masks were effective, when worn correctly, in helping reduce the spread of the virus when combined with other mitigation strategies. The department gave the following tips for properly wearing masks:

• wear masks with two or more layers;

• wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin;

• fits snuggly against the sides of your face;

• masks should be worn by people two years and older;

• masks should not be worn by children younger than two, people who have trouble breathing or people who cannot remove the mask without assistance;

• make sure you can breathe through it;

• wear it whenever you go out in public; and

• wash after using.

During the coronavirus update to the supervisors, Lovaas addressed new definitions the state would be using to determine quarantines. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now defines close contacts as persons within six feet of each other for 15 minutes or longer, regardless of mask use.

Sept. 29, the State of Iowa announced that if both individuals are wearing masks in non-residential, non-household or non-healthcare settings, regardless of distance or duration, they are not considered close contacts.

Face shields do not count in this new guidance.

In early discussions with her public health counterparts, Lovaas said the new state guidelines were not well received.

“Linn and Johnson counties are very unhappily following the new guidelines. So, I guess for now, we will also follow them. I think, in general, a lot of us don’t agree with it. It doesn’t line up with CDC guidance,” she said.

“Basically, what’s probably going to happen is there will be less people in quarantine and, potentially, more cases.”