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Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
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Harvey Wilhelm
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Local partners launch Mask Up Grinnell campaign

Local organizations are promoting Mask Up Grinnell across their platforms. Image contributed by Mask Up Grinnell.

A coalition of local partners unveiled a new campaign encouraging Grinnell residents to wear face masks this week. The campaign, “Mask Up Grinnell,” casts wearing a mask as a simple but necessary step to get Grinnellians back to their normal activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sponsors of Mask Up Grinnell include Brownells, the Claude W. & Dolly Ahrens Foundation, the City of Grinnell, the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce, Grinnell College, Grinnell Mutual, the Grinnell-Newburg School District and the Poweshiek County Department of Public Health.

According to Katy Wells, owner of Double You Marketing and the consultant behind Mask Up Grinnell, the campaign intends to normalize wearing a mask.

“It’s something that is truly something easy to do that hopefully people will kind of get on board and support each other for,” said Wells.

Mask Up Grinnell goes beyond simply encouraging residents to wear a mask, though. Masks adorned with the campaign’s logo are available for purchase at Individuals can buy them for personal use, or Grinnell businesses can buy them for their employees or to offer to customers. If ordered between now and September 4, the masks will be offered at wholesale prices.

Local businesses can also obtain pro-mask signage, such as posters, yard signs and window clings, from the campaign. “Thank you for masking up so we can stay open,” reads one yard sign for sale on the website.

The campaign’s launch comes as many students across Iowa – including in Grinnell – return to in-person classes. The return of students also brings with it fears of another spike of COVID-19 – and with it another economic shutdown.

Since Aug. 18, Iowa’s COVID-19 positivity rate has risen from 10% to 11.5%, according to the Grinnell College COVID-19 Dashboard. In Poweshiek County, the case positivity rate is 11.6% as of Aug. 25. According to the World Health Organization, positivity rates above 5% are cause for concern.

Public health officials recommend wearing masks as the number one step individuals can take to stop the spread of COVID-19, in addition to washing your hands and social distancing. But while most Americans support wearing a face mask in public, in some quarters the issue has become political.

In Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds has declined to issue a statewide mask mandate despite public health officials’ recommendations and repeated requests from organizations across the state. Reynolds also insists that local governments don’t have the authority to issue a mask mandate on their own, but some Iowa cities have defied Reynolds and issued mandates anyway.

Masks like this one will be available to purchase from the campaign at wholesale prices. Photo contributed by Mask Up Grinnell.

In a press release announcing the campaign, Grinnell Mayor Dan Agnew noted that Grinnell does not intend to enact a local mask mandate, but he offered his support for the Mask Up Grinnell campaign.

“We do want to encourage wearing masks as a way to get us back to our everyday activities,” Agnew said.

Wells acknowledged that the politicization of wearing a mask makes it much more difficult to normalize, but said she still thinks that “if we can just focus on the fact that we’re trying to do this for each other and for the community, that kind of [partisan divide] disappears.”

Wells added that a key aspect of the campaign is inclusivity, so that Grinnell residents don’t feel alone when they walk into a local business wearing a mask.

That intention is evident in the campaign’s promotional material and in the sheer breadth of support behind Mask Up Grinnell.

The campaign’s website includes testimonials from a range of public figures, including Pagliai’s owner Joey Pagliai, Brownell’s CEO Pete Brownell and Chief of Police Dennis Reilly.

Wells also emphasized that while the target of the campaign is those who are not wearing masks, “We’re not the mask police by any means. We’re not going to go around and say, ‘You’re not wearing a mask!’ or ‘You’re a bad person!’ … We just hope it’ll be a kind of friendly reminder.”

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