Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a law that bans mask mandates in the state’s public schools and cities. 

It passed the Iowa House of Representatives by a 53-35 vote and passed the Senate by a 29-17, mostly along party lines. Reynolds signed the measure just a few hours later and it went into effect immediately. 

The change passage prompted a number of Iowa school districts to modify their mask requirements for students. 

“Iowa is putting parents back in control of their child’s education and taking greater steps to protect the rights of all Iowans to make their own health care decisions,” Reynolds, a Republican, said in a statement. “I am proud to be a governor of a state that values personal responsibility and individual liberties.” 

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

Gov. Kim Reynolds signs a bill into law expanding Iowa's charter school program, on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, at Starts Right Here, in Des Moines.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signs a bill into law expanding Iowa’s charter school program, on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, at Starts Right Here, in Des Moines. (Reuters)

Republicans praised the measure, saying its inclusion in the education bill came in response to what they heard from their constituents. 

“This must be a personal choice, not a mandate,” GOP Rep. Steven Holt said in a statement. “The groupthink and collectivism that suggests that you must do what I want in order to protect my health is deeply disturbing and is an assault … on fundamental freedoms.” 

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

“We don’t know what’s coming down the road,” Democratic Rep. Christina Bohannan said in a statement. “And we shouldn’t tie the hands of local governments and school boards in responding to any kinds of future illnesses of threats.” 

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

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week that fully vaccinated people – those who are two weeks past their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine – can stop wearing masks outdoors and in most indoor settings. The guidance though still calls for people who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing masks indoors, and for everyone to wear them in crowded indoor settings. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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