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Governor OKs Face Mask Requirements In Salt Lake, Summit Counties

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Utah’s governor cleared the way Thursday for mask requirements in Salt Lake County and Summit County, as local leaders and health officials sought more aggressive steps to counter the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

State officials confirmed Thursday evening that Gov. Gary Herbert had approved requests from the two counties to implement a mask requirement for community gatherings as well as public places such as shops, businesses and restaurants while waiting to be seated.

“We’re at a critical juncture and I really believe this will make a difference,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson. “I’m alarmed about the rising cases here in this state, but throughout the nation. We had all hoped that we were on the right path.”

Wilson said the requirement would go into effect in Salt Lake County Friday night at midnight.

“We are hoping that more and more individuals as a result of this being an order will take it seriously,” said Salt Lake County Health Department executive director Gary Edwards.

Utah announced 590 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, and Summit County’s request to the state noted that the “current rolling seven-day average of new cases continues to be greater than 400.”

“That is 3.5 times higher than the current rate in Colorado,” the letter stated.

Summit County Council Chair Doug Clyde said the county initially saw success in containing the virus with its stay-at-home order issued in March.

“Once things began to open back up again, it became evident that absent protections than what the governor had originally set out, the virus rate was going to climb dramatically,” Clyde said. “We’re just seeing it roll into another state or stage of infection which is becoming far more numerous now that we’ve reopened.”

Clyde said he hoped Utahns would see the utility of masks and not the politics.

“The purpose of wearing masks is to protect our economy and to protect our citizens and hopefully find our way through this virus so that we can manage it and at the same time remain open,” Clyde said.

On the same evening that the mask requirements gained approval from the governor, demonstrators gathered at the Utah State Capitol to rally against COVID-19 restrictions.

“Anytime you’re talking about taking away individual liberties, it needs to be taken very seriously,” said Anna Doane.

Bobette Jones underscored the importance of businesses staying open and society continuing to function in spite of the potential health risks associated with the novel coronavirus.

“I have asthma, I’m always at risk of getting things like the flu, pneumonia, whatever,” Jones said. “I think we just need to live our life.”

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