JCPH clarifies COVID mask proclamation

New state guidelines reduce need for quarantine
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     NOTE: The Jones County Board of Health and Jones County Public Health did not issue a facemask mandate. Both support a countywide proclamation strongly encouraging people to wear face coverings when in public.

     “Given the steady increase of cases in the county, the BOH wanted to take this opportunity to continue to raise awareness about the importance of wearing an appropriate face covering, along with the other recommended mitigation measures for reducing the spread of COVID-19,” JCPH Coordinator Jenna Lovaas stated.

     She further shared that wearing a mask is an effective tool in slowing the spread of the virus, especially when pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission is quite common.

     “Research has indicated that if 80 percent of the population wore a mask (correctly and consistently), it would do more to reduce COVID-19 spread than a strict lockdown,” added Lovaas.

     The countywide proclamation is a “statement about the need for Jones County residents to continue assisting in our efforts to reduce the spread…and to show they support the evidence-based research and guidance from a wide array of public health institutions around the world,” continued Lovaas.

     She said it’s frustrating that the state has not taken “a more significant stance on masks.”

     While the Jones County Board of Supervisors chose to table their approval of the proclamation for the time being, Lovaas said other counties in the region have issued statements and/or resolutions supporting the wearing of face coverings when in public.

     In terms of why Jones County is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases, Lovaas said it’s simply the fact that people are out and about more, especially with school and sports back in session.

     “College students come home and share it with their families and local friends. Weddings, funerals, and numerous other large gatherings are regularly occurring and not everyone is taking precautions,” noted Lovaas.

     Initially, she said people were contracting COVID outside of the school setting. The recent fall-out stems from community spread coming into the school.

     “It all starts somewhere,” said Lovaas.

     When the weather starts forcing people to move events indoors, Lovaas said she’s worried what that will do in terms of the case count.

     On Sept. 29, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a change in the definition of “close contact” for the purpose of contact tracing when it comes to positive COIVD-19 cases.

     The CDC defines “close contact” as “persons within 6 feet or each other for 15 minutes or longer regardless of mask use.”

     Iowa Department of Public Health now says that if both individuals are wearing a facemask in non-residential, non-household, or non-healthcare settings, regardless of distance or duration, they are not considered close contacts.

     “The idea is to keep more kids in school,” explained Lovaas. “It’s a motivating incentive to wear a mask; if everyone has one on, there is no 14-day quarantine.”

     Lovaas said the state’s new guidelines really don’t change anything JCPH is urging of county residents.

     “They actually create more incentives for people to wear masks at work, schools, and when out in public because they are less likely to have to quarantine at home for 14 days,” said Lovaas. “However, I do think we will need to continue to stress the importance of maintaining that physical distance from others and what it means to use an appropriate face covering consistently and correctly.”

     While JCPH will continue its standard practices, the new guidelines could change what local schools are requiring.

     “We have a few schools that don’t require masks, and I not yet heard if any of them are changing that position based on the new guidance,” said Lovaas. She also does not feel the BOH proclamation will change the schools’ requirements either.

     “Our advice to schools has always been to strongly encourage, if not require, mask use,” urged Lovaas.

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