Face Covering Mandate: What You Need To Know

On Aug. 6, the Dubuque City Council adopted a city ordinance that requires everyone within the city limits to wear a face covering, with some exceptions. 

The action comes a week after the city of Dubuque and Dubuque County were both identified as COVID-19 “red zones” for elevated dangers of spreading COVID-19, according to the latest report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. One of the task force’s recommendations for public officials in red zones is “ensure that all business retailers and personal services require masks and can safely social distance.” Recommended public messaging includes, “Wear a mask at all times outside the home and maintain physical distance.”

Iowa is also listed as one of the “red zone” states in the report which identifies “red zones” as “those core-based statistical areas (CBSAs) and counties that during the last week reported both new cases above 100 per 100,000 population, and a diagnostic test positivity result above 10 percent.” Dubuque County is one of eight Iowa red zone counties and the city of Dubuque is one of three red zone Iowa metro areas.  

When does the face covering mandate start and end?

The mandate goes into effect on Saturday, Aug. 8. The amended ordinance allows the City Council to end the face covering mandate at their discretion. The City Council is provided information about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community at every City Council meeting as well as a special work session each month. The mandate will be reviewed as part of these meetings.

Who has to wear a face covering?

Every person in the city of Dubuque three years of age or older is required to wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth when in a public place, unless they qualify for one of the exemptions.

Where are face coverings required?

  • Face coverings are required outdoors whenever one cannot stay at least six feet away from others.
  • Face coverings are required inside any indoor public setting, for example, but not limited to: 
    • Grocery stores
    • Pharmacies
    • Hardware stores
    • Retail stores
    • Any other indoor public setting when with persons who do not live in the person’s household.
  •  Face coverings are required when using public transportation or a private car service, including taxis, ride sharing, or carpooling.

When and where are face coverings NOT required?

  • Face coverings are not required while traveling in a personal vehicle alone or with household members.
  • Face coverings are not required while a person is alone or in the presence of only household members.
  • Face coverings are not required while outside, if keeping six feet away from others is possible
  • Face coverings are not required while exercising at moderate or high intensity, such as jogging or biking.
  • Face coverings are not required while seated at a food establishment in the process of eating or drinking.
  • Face coverings are not required while obtaining a service that would require temporary removal of the person’s face covering.
  • Face coverings are not required when federal or state law prohibits wearing a face covering or requires the removal of the face covering.

Who is exempt from wearing a face covering?

Those who are exempt from wearing a face covering under the mandate include:

  • Persons two years of age and younger.
  •  Anyone who has difficulty breathing or is on oxygen therapy or a ventilator.
  •  Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance.
  •  Anyone who has been told by a medical, legal, or behavioral health professional not to wear face coverings.
  •  Anyone actively engaged in a public safety role, including but not limited to law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel, although a face covering should be worn if possible.
  • A student participating in co-curricular activities when participating according to the Iowa High School Athletic Association rules for wearing face coverings.

How does the face covering mandate impact businesses?

Dubuque businesses that are open to the public must post signs at each entrance instructing customers of the legal obligation to wear a face covering while inside the business.  

No business that is open to the public may provide service to a customer or allow a customer to enter its premises unless the customer is wearing a face covering. If a patron refuses to comply with any business rule or any law, Dubuque businesses can call the non-emergency dispatch number, 563.589.4415, or 9-1-1 in an emergency situation.

What does “a business open to the public” mean?

If customers, patients, clients, or other members of the public are allowed into the building either by appointment or during regular hours of operation then the business is considered open to the public and the face covering mandate is applicable.

How should a business respond if a patron shares they meet one of the exemptions?

If a customer claims they meet one of the listed exemptions it should be accepted. Burden of proof is not required. If a patron refuses to wear a mask and does not give a reason, the patron should be asked to leave. If the patron is asked to leave and refuses to comply, businesses can call the Dubuque Police Department at 563.589.4415 to pursue a trespassing charge.

Does the face covering mandate apply to daycares?

If a childcare center or in-home childcare provider does NOT allow parents, guardians, and other members of the public inside the building and pickup and drop off occurs outside at the door, then the facility is NOT open to the public and the face covering mandate is not applicable.

If parents, guardians, and other members of the public ARE allowed in the building, then the facility IS considered open to the public and the face covering mandate is applicable.

When are face coverings required at restaurants and bars?

Restaurants and bars are open to the public and therefore may not provide service to a customer or allow a customer to enter its premises unless the customer is wearing a face covering. Face coverings may only be removed while in the process of eating and drinking. 

Does the face covering mandate apply to private events held at locations open to the public?

Yes. Guests at private events held at indoor and outdoor locations open to the public such as weddings, funerals, graduation parties, conferences, and other business or social gatherings are required to wear a face covering. Face coverings may only be removed during the process of eating and drinking.

Does the face covering mandate apply to private events held at locations closed to the public?

No. The face covering mandate is only applicable in spaces open to the public. However, the City and public health officials strongly suggest guests attending private events or social gatherings at locations closed to the public (such as at someone’s home or yard) wear face coverings whenever one cannot stay at least six feet away from others.

What are the face covering requirements for weddings?

If the wedding ceremony and reception will include members from different households, holding the event outside is recommended. For indoor weddings, physical distancing is key. The couple being married is considered a household unit.

  • Indoor Wedding Ceremony: An indoor wedding ceremony may be considered a service requiring temporary removal of a person's face covering. Temporary removal should be limited to the ceremony or service and to the couple being married and the officiant only. If the officiant chooses to temporarily remove a face covering, the officiant should be at least six feet away from the couple being married. Members of the wedding party and all other guests attending the ceremony are required to wear a face covering.
  • Outdoor Wedding Ceremony: An outdoor wedding ceremony, reception, and related activities that ensure proper distancing will not require face coverings, but face coverings and proper distancing are recommended.
  • Receiving Lines: Receiving lines should be avoided.
  • Wedding Photos: Temporary removal of a person's face covering is authorized for wedding party photos. Please note, temporary removal is equal to 15 minutes or less. (This is consistent with the definition of exposure.) If face coverings are temporarily removed for wedding party photos, it is recommended that the photos are taken outdoors and within a short timeframe. The wedding couple may temporarily remove their face coverings for photos of key moments throughout the day such as the first dance, cutting the cake, etc. During these activities, the wedding couple should be at least six feet away from everyone else and the rest of the wedding attendees must wear face coverings. 
  • Transportation: Face coverings should be worn by all members of the wedding party during transport.
  • Social/Cocktail Hours: Face coverings must be worn during social/cocktail hours except when eating and drinking. Serving food and drinks alone does not allow for the temporary removal of face coverings. The individual must be in the process of eating or drinking. For example, having a drink or plate in hand is not a sufficient reason to remove a face covering. Proper distancing of at least six feet is also recommended during social/cocktail hours.
  • Eating and Drinking: All attendees can remove face coverings while eating and drinking, although to the extent they can distance, they should. Receptions should follow distancing and seating guidelines consistent with those required for restaurants.
  • Dancing: Outside of special dances with a single couple on the dance floor, face coverings should be worn by all people three years of age and older on the dance floor in indoor spaces. If the dance is outdoors and proper distancing can be maintained, face coverings may be removed.
  • CDC Recommendations for Large Gatherings: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/considerations-for-events-gatherings.html

Who is enforcing the face covering mandate ordinance?

The Dubuque Police Department will enforce the ordinance beginning Monday, Aug. 10. Violators will be informed of the ordinance and will be given a face covering. Questions about enforcement may be directed to the Dubuque Police Department at 563.589.4410 or 563.589.4424.

Dubuque residents in need of a mask can stop by any Dubuque Fire Station to receive a free mask. Depending upon staff availability, masks will be available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

What if I don't wear a face covering?

Those who violate the ordinance and refuse to wear a face covering could receive an initial fine of $10. If payment is not made within 30 calendar days, the fine will increase to $15. Violators who choose to contest the fine in court will have to pay court costs.

Does Dubuque have the authority to require a face covering?

It is the opinion of the City attorney that under Home Rule Authority the City of Dubuque is within its authority for the City Council to institute a face covering requirement.

In 1968, Iowa passed the Home Rule Amendment to the Iowa Constitution which constitutionalized local control in the State of Iowa. The Home Rule Amendment became Article III, Section 38A of the Iowa Constitution granting municipalities the power to determine their local affairs and governing not inconsistent with the laws of the general assembly. Chapter 364 of the Iowa Code reaffirms the constitutional grant of home rule authority to municipalities:

“to exercise any power and perform any function it deems appropriate to protect and preserve the rights, privileges and property of the city or its residents, and improve the peace, safety, health, welfare and convenience of its residents.”

A “city may exercise its general powers subject only to limitations expressly imposed by a state or city law,” and the exercise of a city power “is not inconsistent with a state law unless it is irreconcilable with the state law.” Iowa Code §§ 364.2(2) and (3).

The necessary analysis has not been done at the state level as to whether local face mask mandates are irreconcilable with the Governor’s emergency management action. Until that analysis is done, or a court settles the question of preemption, the matter may be considered unsettled.

Under Home Rule Authority, a city may set standards “more stringent than those imposed by state law, unless a state law provides otherwise.” Iowa Code § 364.3(a); City of Des Moines v. Gruen, 457 N.W.2d 340, 343 (Iowa 1990); Bryan v. City of Des Moines, 261 N.W.2d 685, 687 (Iowa 1978).