Why Salt Lake County health official wants you to mask up, without a mandate

Apr 7, 2021, 5:42 PM
salt lake county health director gary edwards does not think mask mandate is needed again yet...
(SLCO Health Department Director Gary Edwards speaking at a press conference regarding his decision not to recommend a mandate. Photo: Paul Nelson, KSL NewsRadio)
(SLCO Health Department Director Gary Edwards speaking at a press conference regarding his decision not to recommend a mandate. Photo: Paul Nelson, KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY – If the Salt Lake County Health Department wants you to keep wearing a mask to slow the spread of COVID-19, why isn’t Director Gary Edwards recommending a mandate?  Edwards explained why he isn’t recommending the order, and what it would take to get him to reconsider.

Related: Salt Lake County will NOT extend mask mandate, county officials say

Edwards: Public health orders should be rare

Issuing a public health order is no small task, according to Edwards.  During the nearly 30 years of service to the department before COVID-19, he has only issued one other order.  He says it happened roughly ten years ago regarding an environmental health issue.

“A public health order is rarely used,” Edwards says.  “It’s for imminent circumstances.”

Edwards says when the virus was first detected on American soil, the public was in imminent danger.  Masks and social distancing were literally the only methods of protection people had from the spread of COVID-19.  However, Edwards says the vaccines have changed that.

“Vaccination is what started bringing hope to people around the United States,” Edwards said. 

Salt Lake County and the mask mandate

Edwards believes the new daily case numbers have dropped enough, and the vaccination rates have risen high enough that the public is no longer in imminent danger.  He says over 80 percent of people in the highest risk group have been at least partially vaccinated, and he believes the vaccination efforts should be the county’s primary focus.

“Now, vaccination, not masks, is what will ultimately get us to the point of being able to declare this pandemic over,” he said.

However, Edwards says health workers will take a very close look at the rate of COVID-19 cases across the county and he may reconsider a mandate if one of the following things happen:

  • Salt Lake County experiences two consecutive weeks of an increase in cases of 10 percent or greater
  • County case rates reach 245 per 100,000 over the previous 14-day period
  • Total ICU utilization and COVID ICU utilization increase to 75 percent and 15 percent, respectively
  • Test positivity rate exceeds 7.5 percent (using the test over test method) for two consecutive weeks

Edwards says everyone should still use masks, especially if they’re unvaccinated or around people whose vaccination status is unknown.  As for Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s decision to implement a mandate within her city, Edwards says he has no problem with it.

“Any municipality, any business who wants to continue with that as a requirement, they have our full support,” he 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.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

Today’s Top Stories


Shortages of antivirals and antibiotics compound the stress of this year's early and severe respira...
Brenda Goodman and Raenu Charles, CNN

Shortages of antivirals, antibiotics compound stress of a rough season for viral illnesses in kids

Shortages of key medications used to treat common childhood illnesses like flu, ear infections, and sore throats are adding to the misery of this year's early and severe respiratory virus season.
4 days ago
Officials at Weber State University are considering a change to the student health services current...
Alexandrea Bonilla

Weber State University considers outsourcing student health care

Right now, the health center at Weber State provides low-cost care to students and does not require any form of insurance.
5 days ago
carbon monoxide poisoning...
Ali Litzinger

Carbon monoxide poisoning on the rise in winter months

SALT LAKE CITY — Winter is approaching and officials want people to know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Last year, nearly 200 Utahns were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.  The flame in a gas appliance should generally be blue, with some orange. If the flame is mostly yellow, it’s giving off excess carbon monoxide.  […]
5 days ago
Mark Jackson

BYU wellness students return from Blue zone with healthy lifestyle tips

Some BYU students are learning how to live healthy and happier lives from a trip to Ikaria, Greece.
5 days ago
mental health rural...
Devin Oldroyd

Salt Lake Co. Council voting to fund temporary mental health receiving center

Salt Lake County Council will vote Tuesday morning on Funding for a temporary mental health receiving center at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute.
6 days ago
Driven to Assist Season of Service by Larry H Miller....
Elizabeth Weiler and Waverly Golden

Companies around Utah offer free Thanksgiving meals and more

The Miller Foundation, Crossroads Urban Center, and Ken Garff are all offering Thanksgiving meals and other services for Thanksgiving.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Why Salt Lake County health official wants you to mask up, without a mandate