At Monday evening’s meeting of the Hiawatha City Commission, the group heard another request from local healthcare leaders, and amid rapidly rising numbers of local Covid cases, voted to approve Ordinance 2090, which requires the wearing of masks or other face coverings in public spaces within the City of Hiawatha, violations of which will be met with fines.

After the Brown County Commission voted Monday morning to rescind their opt-out of Governor Laura Kelly’s mask mandate from earlier in the year, the Commission discussed whether there was a need to expand upon that mandate. With the understanding that Kelly’s mask rules are a civil matter, the commission felt that some form of criminal aspect was needed, as well, to achieve compliance.

All commissioners were in agreement that they were not seeking any major legal action or jail time for offenses, but wanted an actionably enforceable ordinance in place.

Per the ordinance, the first offense will be met with a $25 fine, with the second offense to merit a $50 fine, with subsequent infractions to earn a $100 fine. The fines will not include court costs, much like a seatbelt ticket.

The ordinance states that a mask must cover the mouth and nose and must be worn in all public spaces, not including private residences, or private offices or workspaces that are not open to customers or public visitors. All businesses, organizations and non-profit groups must require masks when employees are working in a space visited by customers, members of the public or co-workers, when employees are working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution, when customers, members, visitors or the public are in a facility managed by the business, and when employees are in any room or enclosed area where other people are present an unable to maintain safe social distancing.

Exemptions are in place that include young children, those with health conditions, workers who would be endangered or create unnecessary risk from the use of a mask, athletes engaged in organized sports that allow 6-foot distancing, and restaurant customers who are otherwise social-distanced, among others.

The new city ordinance will go into effect as of publication on Friday, Nov. 20 and will be immediately enforceable by the Hiawatha Police Department.

A complete copy of the Ordinance can be found at www.cityofhiawatha.org or in the office of the City Clerk, 701 Oregon Street, free of charge.

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