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Iowa gov signs bill banning mask mandates in Universities

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a legislation that prohibits mask mandates in the nation's public colleges and cities.

It passed the Iowa House of Representatives with a 53-35 vote and passed the Senate with a 29-17, mostly along party lines. Reynolds signed the step only a couple hours later and it went into effect immediately.

The change passage prompted a range of Iowa school districts to alter their mask demands for pupils.

"Iowa is placing parents back in charge of their child's schooling and taking greater steps to guard the rights of Iowans to make their own healthcare choices," Reynolds, a Republican, said in a statement.

The law was part of a broader education bill that would expand open enrollment in Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported.

Republicans praised the measure, stating its inclusion in the instruction bill came in reaction to what they heard from their components.

"This must be a personal choice, not a mandate," GOP Rep. Steven Holt said in a statement. "The groupthink and collectivism which suggests that you have to do what I want so as to protect my health is profoundly disturbing and can be an attack... on fundamental freedoms."

Democrats, meanwhile, said lifting mask mandates would place children and teachers at risk, and is an unnecessary overreach into local communities.

"We do not know what is coming down the road," Democratic Rep. Christina Bohannan said in a statement. "And we shouldn't tie the hands of local authorities and school boards in responding to any sorts of potential illnesses of threats."

Iowa's new law comes as the nation grapples with whether to raise mask mandates as COVID-19 cases drop amid higher rollouts of the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week that completely vaccinated individuals -- people who are just two weeks past their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine -- may quit wearing masks outdoors and in many indoor settings. The guidance though still calls for men and women who are not fully vaccinated to keep on wearing masks inside, and for everyone to use them in humid indoor settings.

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