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Councilwoman Erica Barker, to no avail, urged the city council to support wearing masks.

Erica Barker decided it was time to go on the record and encourage people to wear masks to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

So, the Maquoketa councilwoman is reaching out to local city and county officials, business leaders, health care representatives, community organizations, economic development groups and more to join her in promoting a #MaskUpJacksonCounty campaign. She outlined the project at the Maquoketa City Council meeting Monday night as part of her update on the city’s public safety committee.

While the council voted on the matter, Barker wanted to keep members informed and invite them to join her. 

“We’ve been quiet. We haven’t said anything. It was never a bold statement or taking a stance,” she said in a separate interview last week, adding that “our messaging has been poor” regarding masks and other CDC guidelines.

Barker was inspired by Dubuque’s mask-up campaign #MaskUpDBQCounty. Part of that social media campaign includes a YouTube public service announcement by the mayor of Dubuque. Other parts include members of the community explaining why they choose to wear a mask. 

Barker envisions a similar campaign in Jackson County. 

“I’m hoping that city and community leaders will jump on board,” Barker said.

The movement comes at a time when state and national public health organizations and scientists are strongly urging people to wear face coverings to stem the rise in COVID-19 cases.

“Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus — particularly when used universally within a community setting,” federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said in a recent statement.

There are 42 states that require face masks in public or for certain workers, according to a July 30 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that monitors federal and states health care policy. Iowa is not among them.

The Maquoketa City Council’s discussion about whether to support a #MaskUpMaquoketa or #MaskUpJacksonCounty initiative effectually ended Monday night. 

Barker sought a statement of support from the city and its leaders to encourage everyone to wear masks when they are in public and cannot maintain social distance. 

Councilwoman Jessica Kean heads the Maquoketa Hometown Pride Committee, which is participating in the mask-up campaign. She said city leaders “need to step up on this,” saying the project only seeks a recommendation from leadership, not a citywide mandate.

Councilman Josh Collister said the city “can’t do anything more than the state’s doing.” 

Mayor Don Schwenker called the project “almost counter-productive at this point.” While he chooses not to wear a mask unless required to by a business or a patient, Schwenker said he was OK with the city recommending people wear a mask in public when social distancing is not an option, especially if required by businesses. 

Councilman Kevin Kuhlman agreed. He says he does not wear masks unless required but respects the decisions of other people and businesses.

The whole issue comes down to a matter of opinion, councilman Josh Collister said, adding that a council recommendation to wear a mask would accomplish little.

Barker ended the discussion with the council but will continue working with other area leaders to encourage people to wear masks in public.