Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague has declared a civil emergency and is ordering face coverings be worn in public places, challenging the new state law that largely forbids the move. Teague says his mask mandate is necessary to protect citizens in “a new phase” in the pandemic.

“The Delta variant has reached our community,” Teague says, “and as the numbers of positive cases continue to grow, we are also faced with with an influx of students arriving in our community from around the world as well as the beginning of a new school year for our local youth.”

The mayor says vaccines are the most effective measure one can take against the virus. “We also know that masks are the next line of defense,” Teague says.

Teague’s order includes the University of Iowa campus and Iowa City schools. A spokesperson for Governor Reynolds says the order violates the new state law that bans mask mandates in school settings. The law also bars local city and county officials from mask mandates in private businesses, but local officials can require masking on city or county owned property. Teague says as mayor, he has the power to act when a “public danger” exists.

“Positive cases of the virus continue at an alarming rate in Johnson County,” Teague says. “…August may bring the return to the city of thousands of students to attend the University of Iowa, further increasing the risk of spread of the virus.”

Iowa is one of six states with bans on mask mandates in schools. Yesterday, however, the Texas Department of Education announced that due to court challenges, it was dropping enforcement of Governor Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in Texas schools.