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Dubuque County supervisors today unanimously approved a countywide mandate for face coverings to be worn in public, as local COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

The vote by the supervisors followed a unanimous vote by the nine-member Dubuque County Board of Health on Monday night to again recommend that a mask mandate be established as a way of reducing the spread of the coronavirus. The mandate will go into effect on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

The Board of Health previously recommended such a move, but the supervisors voted 2-1 in early September against instituting one. At that time, Jay Wickham was the only supervisor to vote in favor, with Dave Baker and Ann McDonough voting against it.

The since-revised mandate requires people older than 3 to wear face coverings in interior public spaces and businesses; on public transportation or when using a private car service; and when outside if they are unable to maintain 6 feet of distance from others. Exceptions are included for those with breathing difficulty or under oxygen treatment, or those legally or medically required not to wear masks.

Business owners will have to post signage indicating the mandatory wearing of face coverings inside and also have masks available at the entrance for people without one. The county Board of Health plans to provide masks to businesses.

The mandate runs through March 1, though it can be amended, extended or rescinded at any time.

Dubuque County is the fifth county in Iowa to pass a mask mandate, along with numerous cities, including Dubuque, Guttenberg, Waterloo and Des Moines.

Gov. Kim Reynolds continues to insist cities and counties do not have the authority to issue such an order. The municipalities with mandates argue that they have the legal standing to do so.