The mayor of Muscatine has issued a proclamation for a city-wide face covering mandate starting at 6 a.m. today. Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson said she’s concerned by growing COVID-19 caseloads in neighboring areas.

“Our numbers aren’t terrible right this minute. If we wait ’til they are, it’s going to be too late. People will be sick, people will die and businesses will close,” Broderson said early Sunday evening during an online event organized by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

Broderson announced her decision in a Sunday afternoon news conference and was booed by a crowd outside city hall as she removed her face mask to begin speaking. Broderson told the crowd a face mask is not required outdoors when a person is more than six feet away from others.

According to the Iowa attorney general’s interpretation of state law, mayors do not have the authority to issue the requirement that face masks be worn in public. Broderson said she’s exercising the “home rule” authority local election officials are granted in the Iowa Constitution.

“Mayors have the authority by statute to take control of their city in an emergency situation and make whatever mandates or whatever orders need to be done in order to provide for the health and safety of their community,” Broderson said.

There have been 633 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Muscatine County and 70 percent of those cases have been adults between the ages of 18 and 60. Forty-four Muscatine County residents have died of COVID-19.

Participants in high school team sports in Muscatine will be allowed to play without face coverings and Broderson is granting other exceptions to her face-mask mandate if social distancing is maintained. The exceptions include exercising or engaging in outdoor or indoor sports where social distancing is maintained, eating while seated at a restaurant or bar. Broderson also said face coverings may be removed when a service, like dental work, requires temporary removal.