Salt Lake City, County Take Separate Paths For Mask Mandates
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Leaders in Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City announced opposite face mask requirements once the statewide COVID-19 mandate ends Saturday.
You will still need to wear a mask in Salt Lake City, but not in the rest of Salt Lake County.
The city mayor signed an emergency proclamation Wednesday that extended the city mandate but the county health director will not ask for an extension.
The county health department said on Wednesday its cases continue to decline, and vaccinations are now the key tool for recovery.
“We’ve reached a plateau, and it’s actually not a declining plateau,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, who called the state legislature’s decision to end the mask mandate arbitrary and premature.
Today I am using the emergency powers given the Office of Mayor to require that masks continue to be worn in public settings within #slc limits. The state’s requirement may end April 10, but nothing will change that day here in #slc pic.twitter.com/yLnCNZwQ6C
— Mayor Erin Mendenhall (@slcmayor) April 7, 2021
She will use her emergency powers to extend the mandate. “A stand down date without considering new cases, infection rates, or other real science factors was not a choice based on science or public health interests,” she said.
While the city mayor was encouraged by an overall decline in cases and the rise in vaccinations, she said people in west side communities still have a low rate of vaccination compared with other parts of the city and the county.
“Only a quarter of the residents in Glendale and Rose Park have received at least one dose of the vaccine compared to about 50% in the Avenues and the East Bench,” Mendenhall said.
Under House Bill 294, also known as the “End Game” bill, the director of the county health department could have asked the county council to extend the mandate, and that’s what County Mayor Jenny Wilson wanted.
I’m disappointed, frustrated and concerned. If we were closer to herd immunity, this would make sense. We have a long way to go. https://t.co/EwrbjOtejg
— Jenny Wilson (@JennyWilsonUT) April 7, 2021
However, Gary Edwards, Health Department Director, said county cases are down, and vaccinations are up. He said public health orders are reserved for an imminent threat to public health and were appropriate and necessary when cases were rising. He said it is time to lift the order.
“Now, vaccination, not masks is what will ultimately get us to the point of being able to declare this pandemic over,” Edwards said.
County leaders still recommended but did not require mask use even though they are still required in county buildings and must be worn by county employees.
“If you haven’t been vaccinated, (be sure) that you are wearing your mask. If you don’t know if the people around you have been vaccinated, it’s important to still wear your mask,” said Aimee Winder Newton, Salt Lake County Council Member.
Businesses statewide can also require people to wear masks.
“Be courteous, be kind. But, please we’re not over the goal line yet. I’ve heard it said once, you don’t spike the ball until you get over the goal line,” said Steve DeBry, Salt Lake County Council Chairman.
Edwards said he will continue to follow multiple health indicators in case he thinks the county needs to re-institute restrictions. In the event that cases exceed the critical threshold, he will take the data to the county council to consider action.
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How do I prevent it?
The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
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