The governor of Iowa lifted mask-wearing restrictions despite a new coronavirus variant in the state

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a news conference on the state’s guidance for returning to school in response to the coronavirus outbreak on July 30, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds rolled back several health restrictions in response to the pandemic.

Reynolds said on Friday that Iowans no longer need to wear masks in public, for example.

This update comes as Iowan health officials say they’ve detected new coronavirus variants.

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday lifted several health restrictions intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

Reynolds rolled back health practices like mask-wearing and capacity limitations indoors, despite officials noting in early February that the state has seen three coronavirus mutations.

Reynolds said Iowans no longer have to wear face coverings in public, according to the Omaha World-Herald. She also said businesses no longer have to cap the number of people entering their establishing and can drop social distance guidelines.

Meanwhile, Iowa county officials continue to urge caution.

“Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic,” Dr. Caitlin Pedati, an Iowa medical director and epidemiologist, said in a news release from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

“Public health will continue to work with our partners at [the State Hygienic Lab] to monitor these trends and it is very important that we all keep practicing good public health protective measures,” Pedati said.

The state’s health department’s website encourages people to wash their hands often, continue to social distance, and wear a mask around others.

Reynolds’ office did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

Iowa has had at least 323,000 confirmed cases, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Of that, more than 5,000 people have died from the coronavirus.

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In the last week, Iowa almost topped its record-high number of deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data. Between December 6 and December 12 of last year, the state recorded 492 deaths from the coronavirus. Last week, the state hit 490 new deaths.

Reynolds’ updates to the state’s coronavirus health restrictions are in effect starting Sunday, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

These new coronavirus variants can spread more easily and faster, according to the Iowa health department. Scientists are still trying to figure out whether the new variants lead to higher mortality rates.

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