DES MOINES, Iowa — State lawmakers, their staff and the general public will not be required to wear a face covering when the 2021 legislative session begins on Monday, Jan. 11.
Republican leaders of both chambers, who are in charge of setting the rules, announced this week new COVID-19 safety protocols for the 89th General Assembly.
Individuals will not be required to wear a face covering, even when social distancing cannot be maintained.
Masks and face shields will be available for those who want to wear one, and people are encouraged to bring their own mask to wear.
Iowa House Assistant Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst said she'd like to see a mask mandate in place.
"I'm disappointed to hear that I don't think we're going to have a mask mandate in the Legislature," Konfrst said. "And that's frustrating because it's been proven to be one of those simple things we can do to help each other and to keep ourselves safe."
Hand sanitizer stations have been installed throughout the statehouse.
Reporting a positive COVID-19 test
According to Republican leaders, reporting a positive COVID-19 test is not mandatory for lawmakers, their staff or other employees in the statehouse.
However, if a member or employee self-identifies or otherwise indicates contact with another individual who has a confirmed coronavirus case, there are procedures in place for how they need to report it and to whom.
In many cases, the release of the information regarding the positive case or close contact is up to the discretion of those in leadership.
Contact tracing will be conducted by the appropriate public health agencies, though it is not clear which agencies will be involved.
Republican leadership says the measures were created based on current Iowa Department of Public Health and Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
The CDC "recommends that people wear masks in public settings, like on public and mass transportation, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people."
Visiting the statehouse
Members of the public will go through a health check questionnaire when they enter the Capitol, and building security will also administer a temperature check.
The building is open to the public from 6:30 a.m. until the conclusion of legislative business for the day.
There won't be any guided tours of the building. Committee rooms are only open for legislative business.
Outside groups will no longer be allowed to reserve the rooms.
Senate and House subcommittees will be held via Zoom, and information regarding those meetings will be published at least a day before the subcommittee is scheduled.
Members of the public can comment during the Zoom subcommittee or provide written comments on legislation through the state's legislative website.
Both Senate and House members must be physically present to vote in a committee. All Senate committee hearings will happen on the Senate floor.
House committees will remain in their scheduled rooms. Members of the public wishing to attend in-person will be allowed on a first-come, first-serve basis.
All House and Senate committee meetings will be streamed virtually.