Salt Lake County Council Chair will not call a special session on the indoor mask order

Jan 10, 2022, 8:11 AM | Updated: 8:38 am
Council mask order...
30-day mask mandate applies to students. FILE: Anastazia Dall works in her first grade class at Nibley Park School in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — The Salt Lake County Council has the authority to keep the health department’s indoor mask order from taking effect. But Council Chair Laurie Stringham said she won’t call a special meeting for that purpose.

LISTEN LIVE: Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton discusses parents’ reactions to the mask mandate. 

On Thursday, Jan. 6, Utah saw the highest daily COVID-19 case count ever, for the second day in a row. The next day, the Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Dr. Angela Dunn issued a public health order.

The order required all people in Salt Lake County to wear masks indoors and outdoors when gathering in groups. It went into effect on Friday. On Monday students were expected to come to class masked up.

Council Chair Laurie Stringham cited long lines at COVID testing centers and the difficulty of keeping first responders and health care workers on the job in a news release sent late last night. She said she won’t call a special council session on the 30-day mandate.

With COVID cases surpassing all previous records and the omicron variant’s high rates of transmissibility, some who may not have previously supported a mask mandate seem to be changing their tune. 

Mixed reactions to the indoor mask order

For example, Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton said she does support the countywide mandate, though she may not have in the past. 

The councilwoman said on Friday, the day of the mask mandate’s release, “I am not one who generally supports government mandates, but the data is clear that we have some difficult times in the coming weeks. I believe this is necessary to send a message.”

Stringham says she recognizes not everyone can wear a mask, and she points out that a doctor’s note will not be required for school children to get an exemption from the rule. But she asks the community to work together make it through the omicron spike.

Some Utah parents do not support the mask mandate. A parent run group, Utah’s Parents United, is making sure to publicize the stipulation in the health department’s mandate. They are telling Utah parents who do not want their kids to wear masks how to get an exemption. 

In the release, Stringham acknowledged that masks for COVID prevention is a divisive issue. She doesn’t expect everyone to comply. However, she pointed out the staffing shortages in public safety agencies and asked community leaders to work together to address the surge in cases.

Stringham says the county is working as hard as it can to get high-quality respirator masks out to senior centers and other places where they can be distributed.

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Salt Lake County Council Chair will not call a special session on the indoor mask order