AMES, Iowa — The Ames City Council on Tuesday voted 5-1 to approve a citywide mask mandate.
Making masks mandatory may seem controversial, but to the Ames City Council it was a necessary ordinance. “These are extraordinary times,” said Mayor John Haila, who called the special Tuesday meeting.
An Ames resident named Naomi was one of 36 public comment speakers during the meeting. She spoke against a mandate. “To require a 3-year-old child who is healthy to wear a mask and not be able to see faces or smiles is wrong and is not acceptable,” she said.
Abbey Berger of Ames also disagreed with the ordinance. “I believe it is an infringement of our individual liberty, which is very important. I don’t believe it is healthy, specifically for children or old people to wear masks,” she said. Iowa State University student Railene Snyder strongly disagreed with Berger’s statement. “That’s like saying it is your choice to wash your hands after you use the bathroom. Gross.”
Despite opposition, the new ordinance will require anyone above the age of three to wear a mask outside whenever social distancing is not possible. Masks will also be required inside establishments like grocery stores, retail stores, hardware stores, convenience stores, gas stations and fitness centers. Ames resident Sierra Standridge said, “Just wear the damn mask. Just wear the mask. It shouldn’t even have to be a mandate.”
People with a medical condition causing breathing issues are exempt. A major detail of the mandate is that there will be no penalty for any violation of the ordinance. It is something Iowa State student Gabriela Arias wishes was not the case. “What’s the whole point of the mandate? I feel like you should get penalized.”
Many of the shops in downtown on Main Street in Ames already require a mask to enter the store. Residents in favor of a mask mandate hope it can quickly remove them from being among the top cities in the country with new cases in the past 14 days relative to population. “We are first for something, not the best thing. No, I can’t put this in a positive spin. It’s really bad we are first for that,” said Arias.
The city council bypassed the traditional second and third readings because of Story County’s 14-day average of positive tests currently at over 22% and the governor’s closure of bars also making some residents feel off-campus gatherings would only increase. Arias said, “I get it, they want to go out and do regular college stuff and go to parties and hang out, but there is a pandemic going on. This could kill people.”
The mandate goes into effect Friday. Public safety personnel and child care facilities are exempt from the ordinance, which is set to expire Dec. 31.