Local, state officials react to end of Utah COVID-19 public health orders

May 5, 2021, 9:43 AM | Updated: 12:26 pm
Utah con...
FILE: Utah Gov. Spencer Cox at a weekly COVID-19 briefing. Photo: KSL NewsRadio via Facebook Live

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s governor says reaching the criteria set out in the so-called “Endgame Bill” for ending COVID-19 public health orders in Utah should be encouraging to all of us. 

“It means that our progress, our fight against the virus, is going very well, in fact, going a little better than I think most people expected a couple of months ago when this bill was being debated,” Gov. Spencer Cox said Wednesday on Utah’s Morning News on KSL NewsRadio. 

Public health orders end in Utah

The Utah Department of Health announced Tuesday the state has met all of the criteria established under the endgame bill, meaning Utah’s COVID-19 public health orders have been terminated.

But the mask mandate for public schools will continue through June 15 or the last day of classes, whichever comes first. And businesses can still require masks, too.

The bill said public health orders would be done when the state met three criteria:

  • A 14-day case rate less than 191 per 100,000 people (currently 163.4)
  • A 7-day average COVID-19 ICU utilization less than 15% (currently 11.2%)
  • More than 1,633,000 prime doses of COVID-19 vaccine allocated to the state (1,656,025)

Wednesday, Cox celebrated reaching those milestones.

“We have to have low ICU utilization for COVID, which has happened, our case counts per capita have to be low as well; both of those things have happened,” he said. “And we were just waiting to be able to get the supply of vaccines that was included in the bill, so that everyone — we would have enough supply for anyone that wants to get vaccinated, and we reached that threshold yesterday. So this is very positive news for the people of Utah.” 

Reaction from the public 

Meghan Gillies, attending a baseball game Tuesday night in South Jordan, said it was time to end the restrictions.

“I’m all for it. If you still want to [wear a mask] then go for it, but all of us shouldn’t have to if we don’t want to,” she told KSL TV.

KSL TV counted maybe two people out of 100 there at the game who were still wearing a mask outside.

Annie and Oakley Headrick were cheering on their cousin. They will still have to wear masks for the rest of the school year, but were glad not to have their faces covered at the game.

“I’m terribly sick of wearing masks,” the girls said. “You can’t breathe in them and they’re bad.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, reacted to the news on Facebook. 

“Great news for Utah, let’s get those businesses fully reopened and fire up this economy. Also, concerts are a go again and theaters can be at full capacity AND serve concessions. Let’s all go to Lagoon and enjoy those rides!!” 

In an interview with KSL Newsradio, he added that his main focus is giving everyday Utahns the power to make their own decisions.

“If they want to wear a mask, they can wear one,” he explains. “If they don’t want to go to a crowded event, they don’t have to go to a crowded event.”

He expects local businesses and restaurants to benefit from the change of course, saying they can now expand seating and allow more people inside. 

Local communities respond

Grand County put in their own mask mandate after the state-side mask mandate ended on April 10th. Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson had imposed a mask mandate for all county-owned facilities. And Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall also issued a city-wide executive order on that day to wear masks in public, even though the state legislature technically only gave that authority to counties and local health departments.

After Tuesday’s announcement from the state health department, she tweeted her displeasure.

She plans to still try to require masks in city-owned facilities.

Utah Transit Authority will require masks and social distancing on all buses and trains until September. All state-owned facilities have a mask mandate until May 31. After that date, the agency can determine whether masks still will be required.

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Local, state officials react to end of Utah COVID-19 public health orders