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Utah County, Provo drop mask mandate–but masks still required most places

A statue of Utah Valley University's Wolverine mascot wears a mask on the campus in Orem on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. The Utah County Commission and the Utah County Health Department issued a mandatory mask mandate for the county until Oct 20.

PROVO, Utah– The Utah County Health Department has announced the county’s mask mandate will not be renewed. However, masks will still be required in most places. 

That’s because the recent guidelines from the state require masks in both public indoor and outdoor spaces when social distancing isn’t possible. 

Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge thinks having a mask mandate, along with the state’s requirements, is unnecessary. 

“Right now, we’re in the high transmission category. The state has a mask requirement that applies to Utah County. We felt it didn’t make sense to have two different layers of that mask requirement, so the county has rescinded the county version,” Ainge explained. 

If anyone lives, works, or visits Utah County, they will still be required to wear a mask at events like a concert or a wedding, along with trips to the grocery store. 

This summer Utah County saw a spike in COVID-19 cases as tens of thousands of college students came back to campus. That’s when the city of Provo and the county passed mask mandates to slow the spread. 

However, Ainge feels people have been good about wearing their masks since then. 

“I just think that we do have responsible citizens in Utah County who were following the news and following the surge. That was a reminder that we all need to step up and do our part,” Ainge said. 

Positive COVID-19 tests have either plateaued or gone down since the mask mandate went into effect, though more people have been admitted into local hospitals. 

Ainge says he and other county leaders are open to the idea of reinstituting the mask mandate if the state lowers the area’s transmission rate. Any decisions, though, will be based on data. 

Later that day, the Provo City Council also voted to repeal the city’s mask mandate

Councilor George Handley believes it will help residents avoid confusion with state guidelines.

“This is not an abdication of our own responsibility or any expression of change of heart about the seriousness of the pandemic or the importance of mask wearing,” Handley said. 

He also left the door open to reinstate the mask mandate if COVID-19 cases go up again. 

Provo dealt with a surge of positive COVID-19 tests after tens of thousands of college students went back to campus this summer.