CORONAVIRUS UTAH

Kane County Ends Mask Mandate; State Says Rule Remains In Place

Mar 22, 2021, 11:37 AM | Updated: 9:19 pm

KANAB, Utah – Kane County commissioners last week announced an end to their mask mandate and also issued an executive order declaring the county as a low transmission area even though the state officially lists it as having a high level of transmission for COVID-19.

Now, state officials are speaking out against lifting the mask requirement, saying the statewide mask mandate is still in effect and applies to all counties – including Kane County.

The commission released a joint statement Friday saying in part that the county’s mandate has been lifted, but they “respect individual choice to wear them or not.”

The statement went on to say: “We’ve recognized that a state-wide, one-size-fits-all approach isn’t suitable and has even been detrimental. We also recognize the need to protect our freedoms.”

A spokesman for Gov. Spencer Cox told St. George News that the governor stands by guidance from the Utah Department of Health, which said the mandate remains in all counties until April 10 – and a county does not have individual authority to end it.

“By public health order, a statewide mask requirement remains in effect for all counties, regardless of transmission levels,” the state health department said in a statement. “By this point, there should be no debating the effectiveness of masks at preventing the spread of COVID-19. We encourage Kane County residents to continue to wear masks, where appropriate, to protect themselves and other members of their community.”

Kane County also issued an executive order on Friday designating the county as a low transmission area even though the state’s index ranks the county as having a high level of transmission as of March 18.

“The inaccurate portrayal of the state on our county as continuing to designate us as high transmission when the actual data — that shows the risk of our communities — shows that we’re at very low transmission,” said Rob Van Dyke, Kane County Attorney.

Van Dyke said an outbreak in the county’s jail last month severely skewed the transmission rate. The county asked the state to exclude state inmates housed at the jail from the index calculation, but that the state didn’t modify the index ranking.

The executive order said, “Including data from the Kane County Jail and imposing a higher level of restrictions than is necessary creates many problems in communities like those in Kane County.”

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department, which covers Kane County, also told KSL it still wants residents to follow the state mask guidelines.

“Even though our cases are going down, which is good news, and more people are getting vaccinated, we would encourage folks to keep those guidelines, the mask wearing, when you’re out in public when you’re out in public and you have to be close to people,” said David Heaton, spokesperson for the local health department.

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Kane County Ends Mask Mandate; State Says Rule Remains In Place