SL County Council votes to hold special meeting to address indoor mask order

Jan 11, 2022, 7:22 PM | Updated: 11:54 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County Council could veto the county health order that requires masks in indoor locations as soon as Wednesday night.

The meeting can be held no sooner than 24 hours after the meeting is posted as a public meeting. A posted meeting requires an agenda that had not yet been produced when the vote was taken.

After the vote Tuesday to hold the meeting, when the agenda can be produced and posted, a meeting could be scheduled for Wednesday evening. That meeting is dependent on council members being available, which isn’t certain.

The current health order was enacted by the Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director, Dr. Angela Dunn. The local political body was given veto power over health orders by the Utah State Legislature in last year’s lawmaking session. Previously the council used that power to wipe out a mask mandate for school children.

The current order, largely toothless, applies to children over two, but allows any parent to write an exemption for their child. The state has never enforced previous mask mandates, originally handed down by then Gov. Gary Herbert in 2020. Businesses are free to enforce mask rules for their establishment.

After the recent county mask order, current Gov. Spencer Cox sent a memo to state employees that stated state buildings in the county did not need to follow county orders, but encouraged safe mask use. Cox once provided weekly press conferences about the pandemic, as did his predecessor, but now promotes vaccinations in public statements. He has said previously the vaccines are the silver-bullet solution to the coronavirus.

In Tuesday’s meeting the public was first given time to voice opinions about the latest order.

Voting to possibly repeal the health order was not on the agenda, but was added to it, and passed a vote 4-3 on the nine-member council, with several members unable to vote because of technical issues. Then, a vote was held to determine if the agenda item were an emergency, and that vote failed, preventing a vote for repeal Tuesday.

Without the “emergency” status, the vote must be first placed on the agenda with 24 hours notice to the public.

A motion to call a special meeting was then passed, setting up a meeting Wednesday or 24 hours after the one-item agenda can be made public.

Tuesday was another record-breaking day of test-confirmed COVID-19 in the state of Utah, reaching almost 10,000 new infections, with testing featuring long waits. It is believed numbers are much higher with those unwilling to wait, those with take-home tests and those who wish not to be tested at all.

School cases are soaring and some schools have entered the range of infection to force test-to-stay protocols, but with a shortage of test kits and a shortage of people available to perform the tests. Hospitalizations are a lagging statistic to infection, though it is believed the omicron variant of the virus has a less severe health impact.

Hospitalizations Tuesday surged along with positive test percentages and total cases. Currently 3,922 Utah residents have been killed by the virus, including 15 counted Tuesday. Each death is verified by the same methods other deaths are counted in the state, making the process sometimes slow.

At the council meeting, three different votes would have been required to veto the mask order Tuesday. One would have put the item on the agenda, though a vote would not be legal without public notice, unless it was voted as an emergency item; that vote failed. Had it passed, a vote to veto the order could have been held. The next scheduled meeting for the council is in two weeks.

The vote is likely to be either 5 to 4 to repeal or 5 to 4 not to repeal.

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SL County Council votes to hold special meeting to address indoor mask order