Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — Fairfield resident David Sands thought he was being cautious. Yet still was infected with COVID-19.
'I wouldn't wish it on anybody,' Sands told the Fairfield City Council.
The council met in the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center Monday night to accommodate the large number of people interested in voicing opinions about a mask mandate at the Roosevelt Recreation Center.
By a show of hands, most members of the audience were against the mandate. They argued the mandate infringed on their freedom, that it made it difficult to get enough oxygen while exercising, and that masks were not effective at stopping the spread of the virus anyway.
Sands was sympathetic to their frustrations. He said he likes to play basketball at the rec center, which he cannot do while wearing an N95 mask. However, unlike several people who spoke before him, Sands urged the council to maintain the rec center's mask mandate 'for the time being.'
Ultimately, the council voted 5-1 to keep the rec center's mask mandate in place, following the recommendation of the Fairfield Park and Rec Advisory Board, which suggested keeping the mandate until half of the county's residents 65 and older had been vaccinated. The 'yes' votes were Michael Halley, Martha Rasmussen, Katy Anderson, Paul Gandy and Judy Ham. Doug Flournoy was the only 'no' vote.
In a letter to the council, Park and Rec Advisory Board member Terry Cochrane, a doctor at Jefferson County Health Center, wrote that about a quarter of the county's older adults had received the vaccine and that the county was on pace to cross the 50 percent threshold in April. At the council's prior meeting on March 8, Cochrane spoke in favor of keeping the mask mandate in place until the 50 percent threshold had been reached.
The pleas from Sands, Cochrane and a few others who spoke in favor of the mandate convinced a majority of the council to keep it in place.
Flournoy, the lone dissenter, had made a motion to require masks for rec center patrons only when leaving or exiting the building, or when using changing rooms. Flournoy said he felt that was a reasonable compromise that the YMCA in Ottumwa had adopted, but no other council member seconded his motion, so it died.
Flournoy told The Union after the meeting that he believes the mask mandate at the rec center is overly burdensome and does not comport with city policy nor Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds's proclamation. Several members of the audience felt the same way and urged the council to reverse the rec center's mask policy.
Ed Hipp, a professional golfer for many years, said he's grateful he can play a sport outdoors where he can take a deep breath of fresh air.
'I'm sad for people wearing masks and playing sports indoors where there seems to be this idea you can take away someone's right to breathe fresh air,' Hipp said.
Robert Herron, who introduced himself as director for the Center for Health Systems Analysis, said masks can decrease oxygen intake, which can have long-term health effects. He said it's bad to wear a mask while exercising because that's when the body needs oxygen the most.
Brad Fregger said he was an expert in 'sky is falling' theories, and that all of those theories have been proven wrong in the last 50 years. He said that this 'mask stuff' was a 'big fraud' and that 'I'm convinced you're at greater danger getting hit by lightning walking to the rec center than in getting COVID-19 in the rec center.'
Carol Olicker expressed a different view because she got COVID-19 and suspects she got it at the rec center. She spoke in favor of the mask mandate and suggested a compromise whereby the people who wanted masks could use the rec center at a certain time and those who didn't want to wear masks could use it a different time.
Virginia Lagunas said she is against the mask mandate because she doesn't like being told what to do.
'Don't treat me like a vector of disease,' she said. 'Treat me like a human being.'
Christopher Lassota said he supports the mandate because he has asthma and is susceptible to severe complications or even death if he were to contract COVID. He said wearing masks helps minimize droplets in the air carrying the virus, which is especially important now during allergy season.