The topic of face coverings in the era of coronavirus reached the Hardin County Board of Supervisors again on Wednesday, but the three board members - Lance Granzow, Renee McClellan and BJ Hoffman - stopped short of supporting a mandate that would require the use of masks and face shields in the county.

At a meeting last week, the Hardin County Board of Health approved a set of face covering recommendations it would like Hardin County residents and visitors to abide by to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The state of Iowa has become a hot spot for coronavirus activity in recent weeks. An Aug. 30 report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force identifies the state as being in the "red zone" because it has seen more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population over the course of seven days. The report recommended face coverings on all Iowans when they are outside their homes. Hardin County is in the "yellow zone". The county has recorded 231 cases since testing began in March. There are currently 58 active cases of the disease and one Hardin County resident has died. 

Jeff Hoffman - a member of the county board of health - spoke briefly about the board's decision to approve the recommendations. He said the board of health would like all people to wear facing coverings when they are in public when social distancing of six feet cannot be maintained.

Face coverings are recommended at high traffic public places such as grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores and retail stores.

"Exceptions include when you are traveling in your private vehicle or exercising," Jeff Hoffman said. "Also there are exceptions for children under 2 years of age. They shouldn't be wearing mask for medical reasons. These are recommendations in an effort to set a norm in Hardin County as both the numbers in COVID-19 cases increase in both Hardin County and across the state. It is in the interest of health and safety for those in Hardin County."

Granzow - the board chairman - thanked Jeff Hoffman for his comments, but the supervisors did not discuss the matter any further until the public comment portion of the meeting. The supervisors discussed a mask mandate last month, but said they would not approve a mandate requiring face coverings, citing input from the county's mayors.

During the public comment portion of Wednesday's meeting, Eldora resident Donna Juber commended the board of health for its recommendation, and implored the supervisors to do more.

"I would hope that our board would take another step further along with that considering that Iowa is number one for case increases in the country. If nothing else, at least a letter to the Governor (Kim Reynolds) would be helpful," Juber said.

Union resident Pauline Lloyd said the spike in COVID-19 numbers makes her nervous and cautions about trips to the grocery store.

"My husband and I both have underlying health problems and it makes me scared when I see all people in the grocery store not wearing masks," Lloyd said. "One day, it was only me and workers working. I fear for their health and for mine too. Kinda scary."

McClellan said she was willing to go along with the recommendations from the county board of health, but she was not be in favor of mandating face-coverings at this time.

Supervisors Lance Granzow and BJ Hoffman did not comment on the issue.

Derecho update

Thomas Craighton, the county's emergency management coordinator, said communication is ongoing with FEMA regarding monetary help with clean-up efforts from the derecho storm on Aug. 10.

He said FEMA officials received the county's request for aid on the public assistance side of the emergency declaration, but Gov. Reynolds has said the county does not qualify for individual assistance.

"Everyone is getting cleaned up pretty well. Union has hired a contractor, Whitten is cleaned up and New Providence is cleaned up. We are trying to track back to New Providence and Whitten as far as pictures for damage," Craighton said.

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