(Clarinda) — For the second week in a row, Page County Board of Supervisors had differences of opinions about wearing masks in the courthouse and public places as reviewing Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ recommendations from Jan. 9.
During the supervisors meeting Jan. 12, Jacob Holmes cast the only no vote to a motion made by Alan Armstrong to keep the courthouse’s mask requirement signs on entry doors until Feb. 6, when Reynolds’ directives expire. Supervisor Chuck Morris voted yes.
“There is no definition,” Holmes said about the requirements further explaining his no vote.
Morris initially asked the other two if courthouse changes regarding masks and prevention of spread of COVID-19 are needed. Armstrong said he has heard more public service announcements. He added, 55 of Iowa’s 99 counties have 14-day positivity rates greater than 15%. Page County’s 14-day positivity rate was at 17% Monday.
Morris said he had spoken with legal counsel about the county’s requirements and legalities involving prevention of the spread of the virus that is connected to 16 deaths in Page County since last March.
“We had better as a county dot the I’s and cross the t’s because until legislation takes away the ability to sue. If contact tracing comes back to the courthouse you could be held liable. There was great fear among the legal community that happening. I am not sure that has changed. Being persistent with our requirement for masks coming into open spaces in the courthouse should remain in effect.”
Morris said the Iowa court system requires all participants to wear a mask, including the courtroom in the Page County Courthouse.
Holmes questioned the situations.
“Breathing is not necessarily a gigantic liability,” he said. “Are we going to go outside what the governor’s proclamation is or stay within? If we go outside you got to get pretty deep in definition.” Holmes even questioned the legalities of going beyond Reynolds’ list.
Morris said the intent has always been to ask employees to wear masks in open spaces in the courthouse.
Holmes said, as of Sept. 15, he could only find the word ‘recommend’ to use masks in common areas, but without further definition. Holmes said it wasn’t a motion, but a consensus.
“I’m a strong proponent of individual liberty. This socialistic nanny state thinking is a very dangerous, slippery slope. I think everybody should do their best to protect people. I think we should be very careful of regulations. We have a pretty big one that was passed by the governor that defines in depth.”
Calling himself a minority, when considering further detail Holmes said “you are going to have to lay it out pretty clearly.”
Holmes reminded the others of past moments in recent weeks where masks were not used during county related meetings in the courthouse.
“I have a lot of faith in Page County residents to do the best like they have the last hundreds of years. I do not like proclamations, mandates. We have common sense to wash your hands and if you’re sick stay home. We don’t need big rules and regulations. It’s going to be a giant thick sheet of paper and create a nanny state. I’m not for that.”
As of Monday, Jan. 11, Page County has had 1,794 cases since March and 65 are still active.
Armstrong is in favor of keeping the signs.
“It’s not a huge requirement to wear a mask. We may be wearing them a lot more in the future,” he said.