|COVID – Is It Déjà Vu All Over Again?
Just like a bad movie plot, talks of Covid lock downs, mandatory vaccinations, and masks are back…again. Schools in other states are already starting to require students to wear masks on campus after reports of one positive case and some businesses are following suit. The media is ramping up the rhetoric and President Biden is asking Congress for millions of dollars to develop a new Covid vaccine that according to him “It will likely be recommended that everybody get it no matter whether they’ve gotten it before or not..”
Three years ago we were told masking, lockdowns, and other government imposed restrictions were needed for “two weeks” to “stop the spread.” Those two weeks turned into months and in some cases years for many Americans. Politicians and bureaucrats kept kids out of school, closed churches, shut down businesses, limited who Americans could spend time with, and required some to take a vaccine to simply enter a grocery store. Now, some are threatening to do it all over again. Luckily for Iowans, many of these restrictions are now illegal thanks to the strong leadership of Republicans. Below is a short Q and A regarding what can and cannot happen in Iowa after significant legal changes in the past three years.
Can schools require students to wear masks?
No, HF 847, which passed in 2021, prohibits a school from requiring masks be worn by students, employees, or visitors, with extremely limited exceptions. Parents have the right to decide if their child wears a mask or not in school. If HF 847 is ever overturned by the court, parents can fill out an exemption form to excuse their child from any mask mandate.
Will schools be closed down again?
Since February 15, 2021, schools in Iowa have been required to offer in person classes. Senate File 160 requires schools to offer five day a week, in person learning for students. Schools cannot close and require online classes like they did in 2020.
Will the state be issuing vaccine passports?
No, House File 889 explicitly prohibits the state and any political subdivisions (counties, cities, etc.) from issuing vaccine passports that identify if a person has or has not had the COVID-19 vaccine. This does not stop doctors and pharmacist from keeping vaccine records but does prevent official identification from being issued by the government.
Can I be required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine?
In most cases, no. Businesses and government entities are prohibited from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of entering the premises. However, there are exceptions for health care facilities, including but not limited to hospitals, inpatient centers, residential care facilities and nursing facilities. They may ask for and even require proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Masks and Vaccines:
Do I have to wear a mask on private property?
House File 847 prohibits counties and cities from requiring masks on private property. The only time a mask would be required is if the owner of the property requires it. The law leaves the decision to require masks to each individual business and property owner.
When are people required to wear masks?
– If a business requires a mask as a condition of entry.
– If a government building requires a mask as a condition of entry.
– If a healthcare facility requires a mask as a condition of entry.
Can I be required to wear a mask at work?
Yes, private businesses can require their employees to wear a mask while working.
Can the company I work for offer incentives for those who are vaccinated against COVID-19?
Yes, a business can offer incentives for employees who willingly disclose their vaccination status. As an example, some companies have decided vaccinated employees don’t have to wear masks, while those who are unvaccinated or don’t wish to disclose vaccination information will still be required to wear masks while working.
Could the Governor close businesses and implement other restrictions like she did in 2020?
Under current law, yes, the Governor of Iowa has significant power to close businesses and limit gatherings. However, Gov. Reynolds released the following statement in response to COVID-19 restrictions reemerging across the country:
“Since news broke of COVID-19 restrictions being re-instated at some colleges and businesses across the U.S., concerned Iowans have been calling my office asking whether the same could happen here. My answer—not on my watch. In Iowa, government respects the people it serves and fights to protect their rights. I rejected the mandates and lockdowns of 2020, and my position has not changed.”