During a weekly press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Mason City Mayor Bill Schickel said he's concerned. He's been watching the increase in COVID-19 cases across Iowa and is worried about what the ramifications could be at the local level.
But with any worry, there's also some reassurance.
"This is a new thing for all of us but I really think Mason City and North Iowa have stepped up," Schickel said.
To make his point, Schickel mentioned the compliance the city has had with its mandate that masks be worn by residents when they're in any public buildings. That requirement, which began in July, is indefinite for now and is enforced, in part, by asking anyone who is not complying to leave the area. "I’m pleased with how people are abiding by that," he said.
In conjunction with the public building mandate, Schickel said that city officials are continuing to ask and strongly recommend that people wear masks at all public gatherings as well. However, Schickel made it clear there are certain mandate powers the city doesn't have. Certain citywide compliance orders are possible. All officials do is encourage.
That public effort, Schickel acknowledged, is more important now as school is back in the swing of things and adding a new element to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just yesterday, the Mason City Community School District announced that the football team would have to pack it in for two weeks because of exposure to the virus.
"In one way sports is like art that it can and does bring us together so obviously it’s unfortunate we cannot have football for a couple of weeks here but I think it’s the right decision," Schickel said. Even if the measure might seem drastic to some, Schickel noted that the school district has to have safety as the first priority.
For the city, one of the bigger tests that COVID-19 has presented is to the budget.
Schickel said that the city closed off this past fiscal year in good shape but it is still putting in for available relief funding from the state. The move is meant to cover increased expenses related to COVID such as added hours and work loads for city departments. According to him, Mason City is asking for at least $600,000 from the state for those costs.
At the Mason City Council meeting on Tuesday night, the five-member panel unanimously approved the move.
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ICYMI: Stories from the weekend
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Jared McNett covers local government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Jared.McNett@globegazette.com or by phone at 641-421-0527. Follow Jared on Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.
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