For nearly a year, Americans have endured lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic — business restrictions, school closures, stay-at-home orders, and mask mandates — to varying degrees depending on the state in which they reside.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) just took a big step toward returning her state to normalcy with a proclamation that ended or relaxed most of the pandemic-related restrictions that had previously been imposed, the Washington Examiner reported.
“We know what we need to do and it doesn’t require a government mandate to do it,” Reynolds told the media Wednesday, according to local ABC affiliate WQAD.
“I trust business owners will continue to make decisions on how they operate that is in the best interests of their customers and their employees,” she added.
The proclamation, issued on Feb. 5, did away with most of the mandates and requirements and replaced them with strong encouragement for businesses and individuals to use common sense and voluntarily adhere to recommended guidelines from public health officials.
“I strongly encourage that all businesses or other employers remaining open with in-person operations take reasonable measures under the circumstances of each establishment to ensure the health of employees, patrons, and members of the public, including social distancing practices, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 consistent with guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Public Health,” Reynolds wrote.
“This section shall not be a basis for closing or taking enforcement action against a business or other employer absent an additional specific order or directive of the Iowa Department of Public Health,” she added.
The proclamation stands in contrast to a proclamation from Reynolds issued on Jan. 7 that continued a number of restrictions on the operation of businesses in the state, including capacity limitations, mask mandates and other stringent requirements.
Business owners decide
Jessica Dunker, CEO and president of the Iowa Restaurant Association, told The Center Square, “They’re asking businesses to stay responsible, so I think the net result is going to be that there aren’t going to be big changes overnight in most restaurants and bars.”
“I think they will slowly — knowing that they can comfortably accommodate people — they might expand how many people they can have come in, but they want to do it safely. They probably will keep their staff in masks. But what will be simpler is not being put in a position to have to police your customers,” she continued.
Dunker noted that enforcement of the prior restrictions had been difficult in some instances and that the restaurant industry on average had lost nearly a third of its revenue — and more than 50% in some places — while straining under the confines of the strict limitations and mandates.
“I think generally the loosening of restrictions is good for restaurants and bars because it puts the power back into the hands of the owners to choose how to most effectively keep people safe,” Dunker added. “A restaurant can talk about their own mitigation steps and the things that they’re not mandated to do, but that they’re choosing to do, as a differentiator over another restaurant.”