Governor: Mandate Issued For Face Masks In K-12 Schools Statewide
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has issued a mandate requiring all students, faculty, staff and visitors of the state’s K-12 schools to wear face masks in schools and buses.
He stopped short of issuing an order that would require face masks for everyone.
School systems across the state have begun announcing plans for re-opening in the fall. Some have recommended face masks for students, but haven’t required them, causing some concern among parents and teachers.
Utah has seen a sharp increase in coronavirus cases since Memorial Day – around two weeks after the state moved from a “moderate” risk or spread to a “low” risk response.
The Utah Department of Health reported an increase of 601 positive coronavirus cases and 4 more deaths Thursday, just one day after the state reported a daily record increase of 722 cases.
LIVE: Gov. Gary Herbert and state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn are holding a press conference with updates on the state's efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19
Herbert said Utahns must recommit to wearing masks in public as well as social distancing, staying home while sick and washing hands.
“Let’s see if we can’t roll up our sleeves and do the right thing for the right reasons: we care about each other. We’ve demonstrated that in times past. We need to have that same kind of caring today,” Herbert said.
Utah Hospital Association President and CEO, Greg Bell, said Wednesday that wearing face masks was the only sure way to slow the spread of the coronavirus and keep the economy open.
Bell said the current trend of rapidly increasing new cases is close to overwhelming Utah hospitals.
“Mostly we are just very alarmed about the trend, It’s an unsustainable trend and the projection just shows that by the end of the month, we are going to be in trouble,” he said.
Utah Senate President J. Stuart Adams issued a statement Wednesday saying he did not support a statewide face mask order.
“Mandating masks raises questions of enforcement and punishment. As legislators, we are working to strike a balance between policies that protect public health and citizens’ rights. Let us rise to the occasion and do what we can, proudly and willingly. I am asking you to help out by wearing a mask voluntarily,” the statement read.
Brad Wilson, Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, issued a similarly worded statement.
“I believe it’s prudent to stop short of issuing a statewide government mandate, because doing so would apply the same policy to our most heavily populated areas as our rural areas and areas with different rates of infection,” he said. “Local officials are better positioned to make data driven decisions regarding face masks that are tailored to their communities.”
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