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Legislature issues COVID-19 guidelines for upcoming session

(Utah State Capitol Complex. Credit: Paul Nelson, file)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature issued new COVID-19 guidelines it will implement during the 2021 legislative session, complying with state and local health recommendations. This comes as the Legislature announced Friday the session will still allow public comment periods for its in-person and virtual sessions. 

The newly issued changes include mask requirements, social-distancing guidelines and increased sanitation. 

“From the onset of COVID-19, legislators have done the things we’re best known for here in Utah — looking ahead and planning for the future,” said House Speaker Brad Wilson in a statement. “Because of significant efforts made by legislators and staff to make modifications and upgrades, Utah is one of only a few states that is planning to safely conduct the important work of the general session with little to no interruption. In fact, some of the upgrades will have the added bonus of making public participation more easily accessible than ever before.” 

Masks required for Utah Legislature under session guidelines

Masks will be required in all indoor spaces at the Capitol Hill Complex. Individuals will also be encouraged to maintain a 6-foot distance whenever possible. 

Each chamber will also designate a “mask ambassador” who will ensure each member is wearing a mask during sessions. It’s important to note the ambassador cannot “enforce” mask-wearing, according to the Legislature — they will only serve as a “friendly reminder.”

However, individuals will be blocked from entering the Capitol building if they don’t wear a mask. 

Dedicated work space to help lawmakers socially distance

Committee members will have designated work spaces throughout the Capitol building to work, where they’ll have the option to attend meetings in-person or virtually. Committee meetings will limit room capacity to ensure social distancing. 

Rooms will be thoroughly disinfected between each meeting. 

Each meeting will be available for livestream so Utahns can tune in to each committee hearing. Lawmakers said this aspect of “public participation and transparency” are crucial for the legislative session. 

“Lawmakers make better decisions with public input, which is why we made sure in-person and remote-comment options would be available during the 2021 General Session,” said Senate President J. Stuart Adams in a statement. “Maintaining the legislative process during this pandemic by ensuring Utahns have options to provide feedback has been a top priority for the Legislature because input from the public helps us create the best policies for all Utahns.”