SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City is not following the footsteps of Salt Lake County and will extend its mask mandate, despite the lift of the statewide mask mandate on April 10.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall called masks a “life-saving measure” during a news conference in Salt Lake City Wednesday. Additionally, she called the move to lift the mask requirement “pre-mature” and said Utah’s marginalized communities will be impacted most by the lifted order.
Salt Lake City mask mandate to continue
In response to the removal of the mandate, Mendenhall is extending the required use of masks throughout the city, in spite of a bill passed by Utah lawmakers prohibiting cities to instate the policy.
She said the decision to keep the mandate in place comes from “data and not deadlines,” outlining only “25.3% of Rose Park and 23.4% of Glendale residents have received at least one vaccine dose, compared to 49.3% of those in the Avenues and 52.5% of the East Bench.”
Mendenhall stated she has the power to extend the mask mandate under emergency powers and does not conflict with the recent pandemic “endgame” bill.
“The state’s requirement may end April 10, but nothing will change that day here in #slc,” Mendenhall tweeted Tuesday.
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
Pandemic “Endgame” bill sponsor responds
Representative Paul Ray (R-Clearfield), the sponsors behind the pandemic “endgame” bill states the move made by Mayor Mendenhall is an overstep.
“It [the bill] says only counties working with their local health department has the ability to do that [extend the mask mandate],” Ray told KSL NewsRadio. “Even the governor can’t do that. It’s only counties.”
Mendenhall stated she has the authority to prolong the required use of masks due to Salt Lake City being under an emergency order, giving her executive power to make the decision.
Since Mendenhall is a city and not a county mayor, Ray says she does not have the legal power to enforce a mask mandate citywide.
“When you write legislation, you don’t have to list an exclusion when you say that only a certain body has the ability to do that [extend the mask mandate],” said Ray. “But the fact of the matter is, the bill says the only the county can do that.”
If Mendenhall follows through with the order, there are legal actions the state could take against the mayor.
“Obviously, the state could sue,” said Ray. “I don’t know if we want to do that or not.”
Additionally, Ray questioned how Mendenhall would enforce the mandate, calling her extended order “toothless.”
“But what are they going to do when somebody doesn’t wear a mask? Nothing,” said Ray. “So, there’s nothing she can do here. Her executive order, whatever you want to call it, is toothless. There’s nothing she can do.”
Mendenhall responds to “Endgame” legislation sponsor
“This is about data and the facts as they are,” Mendenhall told KSL Newsradio on the Jeff Caplan Afternoon News program on Wednesday. And she said that HB294, the so-called “Endgame” legislation,” relates only to health orders.
“It doesn’t say anything about any city mayor’s ability to exercise their emergency powers to protect life in an emergency,” she said.
Mendenhall told KSL Newsradio that the Salt Lake City Attorney’s Office has analyzed her extended mandate.
“We feel very confident in our ability to exercise our legal authority,” she said.
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.
- Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
- 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).
- Obtain a flu shot.
- Seek out the COVID-19 vaccine.
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707
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