Hiawatha Hospital CEO John Broberg was present at Monday night’s meeting of the Hiawatha City Commission, and presented the commission with a request for the city to mandate the use of masks in public places where social distancing is not feasible.

The Commission discussed the proposal, but ultimately declined to move toward a mandate. Mayor Bill Collins stated his support for Broberg and the hospital, as well as for the use of masks, but said that the difficulty of enforcing a mask mandate made the proposition counterproductive.

Police Chief John Defore pitched in that a mask mandate would be a civil, rather than criminal matter, thus impossible to enforce — similar to the familiar “No shirt, no shoes, no service” signs seen in stores. He did note that a business could have anyone who violated a mask requirement on their premises charged with criminal trespass.

Broberg informed the commission that Brown County has recorded 36 cases of COVID-19. He stated that it took the county nearly two months to get to 14 cases, but that in the last month that number has grown by almost 200 percent. The hospital CEO said that the virus continues to weigh down resources at all facilities, and said that the use of masks “is not about politics — it is about science and public health.”

The request was accompanied by letters of support from Maple Heights, The Pines, Vintage Park and Heartland Realty.

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