Judge Robert Pratt has extended an order that will prevent state officials from enforcing a law that prohibits school districts from mandating masks until the federal lawsuit challenging the law can be heard.
Judge Pratt had earlier issued a temporary restraining order preventing Gov. Kim Reynolds and Department of Education Director Ann Lebo from enforcing the law Reynolds signed in May. The order entered Friday issues a preliminary injunction that continues to prohibit the state from enforcing the law until the court case can be decided.
Pratt cited the current trajectory of pediatric COVID-19 cases in Iowa since the start of the school year and the irreparable harm that could befall the children involved in this case as reasons for the order. At least two dozen Iowa school districts have implemented mask mandates since Pratt’s initial order on Sept. 13. They include the state’s largest public school district in Des Moines. Also Ames, Ankeny, Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Council Bluffs.
“Many of the largest school districts in the state, as well as several smaller districts, quickly acted to adopt universal masking policies to ensure the protection of almost one-third of Iowa’s public school children,” Pratt wrote.
State data shows 11 children 17 or younger are hospitalized with COVID-19 with an additional six patients aged 18 or 19. Nationally, Pratt noted: “Unfathomably, 142 children died between the AAP’s reports of August 12 and September 30, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths of children to 520.”
Lawyers for Reynolds and Lebo immediately filed notice of an appeal with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which could reverse Pratt’s order or keep it in place. “We will never stop fighting for the rights of parents to decide what is best for their children and to uphold state laws enacted by our elected legislators. We will defend the rights and liberties afforded to all American citizens protected by our constitution,” Reynolds said in a statement [ABC News].
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