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Iowa's COVID Approach Creates Concern in Immigrant Communities

Iowa is one of the handful of states that has yet to issue some form of statewide mask mandate to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Adobe Stock)
Iowa is one of the handful of states that has yet to issue some form of statewide mask mandate to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Adobe Stock)
August 5, 2020

STORM LAKE, Iowa -- Iowa is considered one of the high-risk states in the latest phase of the pandemic, and prevention efforts by state leaders are being called into question. Groups that serve immigrant populations say taking such steps as a mask mandate would be helpful.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has strongly resisted a statewide rule requiring face coverings in public and is preventing local governments from enforcing their own mandates. In places where pandemic disparities have emerged, said Di Daniels, co-director of SALUD, a multi-cultural health coalition in Storm Lake, there's concern about additional spikes in cases. She said a mask mandate would be welcome in her area.

"Nobody likes wearing a mask for great lengths of time," she said, "but I think it's a small price to pay for the potential preservation of good health."

At one point during the pandemic, Buena Visa County was considered one of the nation's top hot spots for COVID. That was largely due to cases tied to the Tyson Foods pork plant in Storm Lake, which employs many Hispanic workers. The governor has stated that a mandate isn't necessary; she believes individuals will make the right decision.

Reynolds has also said school districts should not opt for distance learning only, which would defy state orders for at least 50% in-person classes. Daniels said her community has mixed feelings about the new school year, but there's a strong desire to have plenty of community input and involvement in how students return to the classroom, so that it's done in a safe way.

"I do not hear people going out in the street and saying, 'This can't happen. They can't go back to school,'" she said.

As for a mask mandate, faith leaders and medical professionals now are pressuring the governor to issue an order, especially with kids expected to be in classrooms this fall.

The high-risk assessment is online at publicintegrity.org, and more information about SALUD is at facebook.com.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA