A coalition of health groups led by the Iowa Medical Society have sent Governor Kim Reynolds a letter, urging her to issue a statewide face mask mandate.

“We’re optimistic that this increased attention will yield the right results and help move the needle in the right direction,” Dennis Tibben, director of external affairs for the Iowa Medical Society, said during a Radio Iowa interview.

Fifteen groups representing 12,000 health care providers signed onto the letter, which was first obtained by The Des Moines Register.

“There has been a recent uptick in infection rates and we’re really seeing a shifting in infection from the elderly population to more of those younger folks who are out and about in communities,” Tibben said. “…Our board felt there was really a need to bring greater awareness to this.”

The groups say widespread use of face coverings will slow the spread of the virus and save lives. Governor Reynolds has encouraged Iowans to “mask up,” but has resisted a statewide mandate.

“In an ideal world, we could go the voluntary route. We’ve been working on public education, as has the state, but unfortunately that message just seems to be getting lost,” Tibben said. “…There’s really just a need for more individuals to step up and do their part to protect their fellow Iowans.”

Governor Reynolds and Attorney General Tom Miller have advised local government officials they may require face masks in city and county facilities, but lack the authority to enforce mask mandates on a city-wide or county-wide basis.

The number of Iowans hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 continues to rise. The total number of patients today is 253 according to the state’s website. That’s a dozen more than yesterday and 53 percent higher than it was on June 28.