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Following a unanimous decision to not issue a county-wide mask mandate at its Dec. 7 meeting, the Delaware County Board of Supervisors issued a statement explaining its decision during the regular meeting on Dec. 21. Delaware County Public Health officials had requested the mandate in a letter to supervisors in late November.

Supervisor Shirley Helmrichs read a prepared statement on the decision by the supervisors to not support a county-wide mask mandate. It read,

“The last several months have been exceedingly difficult and, in many ways, frightening as we find ourselves deeply divided over many serious issues we, as a nation, are facing. COVID-19 found its way into our lives blindsiding the medical community and creating fear and uncertainty. It is an unknown and the questions surrounding how and who it affects grow with each new case. Health care professionals struggle to bring it under control when it appears to be so unpredictable. A relatively young and healthy person experiences severe symptoms resulting in death and yet another, much older and with existing health issues, has little or no symptoms at all.”

“As county supervisors, we were asked to pass a mask mandate that would require residents and visitors to wear a face-covering while in Delaware County. On the face of it, it seems simple but, in Iowa, local governments do not have the legal authority to pass such a law, and, even if we had, there are no existing mechanisms that would allow the mandate to be enforced.

“Governor Reynolds passed a mask mandate effective Nov. 17 and is scheduled to run into January. Since then, anyone who is responsible and doing their part is already wearing masks. For the small minority who have chosen not to wear a mask in public in defiance of the Governor’s order, does anyone really believe they will change their minds just because we, the Governor or even the President, ordered a mandate? Especially if they know the mandate may not be legal and cannot be enforced. We suspect the issue will be argued in the courts in the years to come and, if possible, we would hope to protect Delaware County from any future lawsuits related to this controversy.

“We have been accused in recent days of not caring about our health care workers or anyone who has been or may be infected by COVID-19. Anyone who knows us understands that is simply not true. Residents of Delaware County are blessed to have access to our health care system at every level. It is staffed by some of the most dedicated and caring individuals we know.

“Our disagreement with passing a mask mandate has been and remains that we do not believe we have the legal authority to pass a mask mandate and, since we would have no way to enforce the mandate, it is, for all practical purposes, just lip service and may cause greater harm than good by further inflaming this controversial issue.”