Open Letter to the Ames City Council

An Open Letter to the Ames City Council
UPDATE: Good news. The Ames City Attorney has provided private clarification that face coverings are not required for song leaders, speakers, and readers at a podium with sufficient distancing.

To the Ames City Council:
Tuesday evening, the Ames City Council passed an ordinance requiring that “every person in the City of Ames three years of age or older must wear a face covering that completely covers the person’s nose…inside any indoor setting or establishment where the public is invited in.” 

As written, the ordinance makes no provision for indoor spaces sizable enough to allow ample distancing to eliminate concern over the spread of the virus.

Throughout Ames, there are situations in which groups gather to hear presentations (e.g., lectures, funerals, houses of worship).

Seeing a presenter’s face is vital to an effective personal presentation, both to the presenter and the audience.

There are facilities large enough to allow a presenter to be sufficiently distanced from the audience to eliminate the possibility of spreading the virus. Such arrangements are certainly safer than unmasked restaurant diners separated ten feet from the group, which is currently allowed in Ames.

This Sunday, during this stressful, emotional, and challenging season, congregations will meet in houses of worship where the officiant(s) may be distanced over twenty-five feet from the nearest person. Yet, those congregations are prohibited from seeing their spiritual leaders’ faces as they deliver messages of unity, comfort, and hope.

Grieving families will not see their spiritual leader’s comforting face during a eulogy at a funeral.

For such situations, the ordinance is unnecessary, unhelpful, and unthoughtful.

Before the ordinance is in effect, I urge the City of Ames to add the following exemption:

“A presenter or presenter(s) are exempt from wearing a face covering while presenting to a gathering indoors, provided that they maintain sufficient distance from the group.”

Such an exception would be a good-faith service to community organizations, allowing leaders to honor the city government while presenting effectively, safely, and compassionately. Likewise, it preserves peace in as leaders can point to an official exemption.


Eric Schumacher