Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld walked out of his son’s high school graduation ceremony over the weekend rather than abide by the event’s mask requirement, according to local news outlet Pen City Current.
Mohrfeld, elected mayor of the Southeast Iowa city of 10,000 last year, told the Pen City Current’s Chuck Vandenberg “it’s absolutely and positively up to the people and businesses” to decide whether to wear a face mask. Mohrfeld said he respects “everyone that wants to wear a mask” and “would never discredit the research used by people to wear a mask.”
“On the day we’re trying to tell our children it’s time to be an adult, we should have put the information in front of them and allowed them to make a decision,” Mohrfeld told the online newspaper.
Michael Sheerin, principal of Holy Trinity Catholic in Fort Madison, told the Pen City Current “parents and families were notified several weeks ago that if the event, which was originally slated to be held outside, was moved indoors everyone would be required to wear masks.”
The high school graduation ceremony was moved on Sunday to the gym “due to the forecasted weather.”
Lee County has experienced a steep increase in positive COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. On July 18, the 14-day rolling total of cases was three. By Monday, it was up to 27. The county has reported 95 cases of coronavirus and three deaths.
Rebecca Bowker, also elected to the Fort Madison City Council in 2019, said on the Pen City Current’s Facebook page she was “very disappointed” in his decision, which prompted others to criticize her for recently vacationing in Florida despite the surge in coronavirus cases there.
Bowker and Mohrfeld exchanged a few words on Mohrfeld’s Facebook page, to which he replied: “I have and will not protest against face mask. I will protest against blind indoctrination of our youth by the education system. You do know that there were schools in the 60s that openly preached segregation. Youth must question — inform — and make there own decisions. Small actions have large consequences”
Over the weekend, Mohrfeld wrote on his Facebook page, “If you don’t stand for what you think is right you will fall for what is wrong.”
According to the newspaper’s report, “Mohrfeld’s son stayed throughout the ceremony with a mask on, as did two of his family members. All other attendees at the one-hour service wore masks and families were seated according to social distancing requirements.”
Holy Trinity Catholic, educating preschool through high school students, is encouraging students and staff to wear masks when school resumes but will not mandate it “at this time.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
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