Judge Extends Order Ending Iowa Schools’ Mask Mandate Ban

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A federal judge extended a restraining order on Monday by 14 days barring Iowa officials from enforcing a law prohibiting school districts from promulgating mask warrants.

The order issued by Justice Robert Pratt extends his original order from Sept. 13 to Oct. 11, meaning school districts can impose mask warrants and the state can’t stop them.

Pratt concluded that law enforcement continues to pose a threat to children’s health.

Documents filed in the case on Monday claim that nearly a quarter of Iowa’s public school students are in districts that have experienced significant outbreaks of COVID-19 this year.

Reports indicate that 11 school districts, including Waterloo, Sioux City and Muscatine, reported more positive cases in the first month of the school year than in the entire previous year. The data was included in court documents released Monday by lawyers for 11 parents and the disability rights group The Arc of Iowa who are suing the state.

The documents indicate that 16 other school districts, including Marshalltown, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, have already recorded coronavirus cases equivalent to 50% of the last school year tally.

The 27 school districts represent 24.5% of all students in public schools in Iowa.

The court document cited local and state data and information about schools collected by Iowa COVID-19 Tracker, an online service that compiles data from government sources, including school districts.

The documents say Van Buren County School District officials reported an average of six positive cases per day, a 128% increase from the average two weeks ago. For the week of September 13, the district reported that 18% of its students were absent.

The school nurse for the West Burlington School District reported that the district had almost as many COVID-19 positives in elementary school in the first two weeks of the year as in the entire previous school year. At the junior-senior level, the number of cases was triple that of last year.

Efforts to track outbreaks in schools have been hampered by policies implemented by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds in July that halted daily reporting of viral activity. Additionally, Iowa no longer offers large-scale testing, leaving families to find their own tests if a child is exposed or symptomatic.

Reynolds said she was adopting a policy in which the state treats COVID-19 like the flu, meaning state officials have stopped investigating cases and tracing contacts in schools. Reynolds has rejected more than $ 95 million in federal pandemic aid offered to Iowa to fund testing, contact tracing and other mitigation measures. She said the state didn’t need the money.

Reynolds spokesperson Alex Murphy said wearing masks should be a parental choice, and he repeated discredited reports that masks cause problems with social, behavioral and speech development.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that transmission rates in schools with universal masking were less than half of those in schools without a mask warrant. Another CDC study found that the odds of a school-associated COVID-19 outbreak were 3.5 times higher in schools without a mask requirement than in those with a mask requirement implemented early on. from school.

Data from Iowa shows a continued increase in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Data released Monday by the Iowa Department of Public Health indicated that 12 children aged 11 or younger have been hospitalized in Iowa with COVID-19. They were among 641 Iowans treated in hospitals for the virus. The report says 151 people were in intensive care.

Last week, the state’s public health department reported that more than 3,000 children had tested positive for COVID-19, more than a quarter of the 12,163 new cases reported by the state over the years. seven previous days. The percentage of infected children has reached an all-time high, Srivinas said.

At least 24 school districts have reinstated a mask warrant since Pratt issued a temporary restraining order on September 13 preventing the state from enforcing the school district’s ban on mandating masks, lawyers for the plaintiffs said in court documents.

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