SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert approved the requests for two counties to have the power to order mandatory face coverings in public spaces.
The order does not immediately mean Salt Lake and Summit County leaders will order residents to wear masks in public; it merely gives local jurisdictions the power to do so. However, both were expected to issue orders as soon as this weekend.
“Notifications are in the process of being made to the two requesting jurisdictions that they may implement a face covering requirement. Governor Herbert has approved their requests,” said Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, acting director of the Utah Department of Health.
— Mayor Jenny Wilson (@SLCoMayor) June 26, 2020
“We have evidence that face coverings like this one or even a cloth mask across your face save lives,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said in a video just before the Governor’s decision on Thursday.
“We are at a critical time because we have seen a very, very large increase in cases over the last month,” Wilson continued citing the 40% increase in cases over the last month in her county.
“I think it’s important that everyone wear a face mask, we have asked, we have educated, we have reached out. Th at work has been done and we are not seeing the compliance at the level we need, and therefore I think it is time that we act as government and make it a requirement.”
Wilson says that masks will be required in during all interactions in public spaces but not while in the outdoors.
Wilson requested the authority to mandate masks in public spaces earlier in the week. Summit County officials followed suit Thursday.
Today #SummitCounty Council Chair Doug Clyde, Summit County Manager Tom Fisher and Summit County Health Director Dr. Rich Bullough penned a letter to General Jefferson Burton, requesting a mask mandate for residents and visitors of #SummitCountyUtah. https://t.co/2VGAENUyKk
— Summit County, Utah (@SummitCountyUT) June 26, 2020
Wilson originally submitted a request to the Governor’s office to allow her county to issue a mandate for residents and visitors to wear face coverings while in public places in Salt Lake County.
In response to the surge of COVID-19 cases, Mayor Wilson formally requested that Governor Herbert allow Salt Lake County to require face coverings in retail and commercial establishments.
— Salt Lake County (@SLCoGov) June 23, 2020
In that request to the governor, Wilson says her intention was to implement the mandate that face coverings be worn in all, “retail and commercial establishments, restaurants while waiting to be seated and served, and at community gatherings.”
Wilson said in that request that if approved the new mask requirement would take effect 12:01 a.m. June 27, 2020.
Some of the data provided by Salt Lake County Health Department Director Gary Edwards to the governor cited the county’s record number of new coronavirus cases over the last several days.
In a letter addressed to the Utah Department of Health, Edwards highlighted three statistics. The record number of new cases, the rising number of new hospitalizations due to the coronavirus, and the stress all of the new cases is placing on contact tracers.
Edwards says that Salt Lake County has seen more than 100 confirmed cases since June 2 and over the last week that number has been over 200. Of those new cases he says that they have seen the number of new hospitalizations go up by 40%.
“While the hospitals currently have capacity for COVID-19 patients, our concern is that continued increase in hospitalization will further stress our healthcare systems, having cascading effects across the state. With a reduced risk of transmission by individuals wearing face coverings, we can pre-emptively reduce future stress on the medical system, allowing hospitals to operate without resorting to crisis standards of care.”
Currently, Salt Lake County accounts for half of the state’s positive coronavirus cases, 56% of the state’s hospitalizations, and 65% of the state’s deaths.
During a news conference yesterday, Herbert said that he expects to lean on the recommendations from local governments.
“I am a local control person,” he said. “I believe those closest to the people are in that local government arena.”
Herbert yesterday issued an executive order requiring anyone who does business with the state to wear a mask.
Utah’s faith leaders join the call to wear a mask
This decision comes also after a group of 28 faith leaders from across Utah called on their congregations and every Utahn to wear a mask.
“We pray for the end of this devastating pandemic. However, the reality is that our actions must accompany those prayers. Please join us in continuing to take action to prevent the further spread of the pandemic by wearing masks in public and maintaining physical distancing,” they wrote in a statement.
“We, the under-signed Faith Community Leaders, appeal to people of faith all over the state to wear masks and practice physical distancing, sacrificing a small measure of comfort for the sake of saving lives,” the statement continued. “
We recall that the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second is like unto it, to love one’s neighbor as oneself. One cannot claim to love one’s neighbor while deliberately putting them at risk.”
How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus
COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
- If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
- Get a flu shot.
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707
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