Salt Lake County Mayor blasts Gov. Cox’s decision on masks in state-run buildings

Jan 10, 2022, 6:28 PM | Updated: Feb 23, 2023, 1:22 pm

(Utah State Capitol Complex.  Photo: Paul Nelson, January 10, 2022)...

(Utah State Capitol Complex. Photo: Paul Nelson, January 10, 2022)

(Utah State Capitol Complex. Photo: Paul Nelson, January 10, 2022)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County Mayor has harsh criticism for Governor Spencer Cox after the state has decided employees and visitors in state-run facilities won’t be required to wear masks.  She says this decision is blatant disregard for the law and for public health.

The countywide mask mandate went into effect at the stroke of midnight on Friday night/Saturday morning.  It requires everyone to wear “well-fitting” respirators, preferably KN95 masks, while indoors or gathering in large groups.  However, on Monday, state officials issued the following statement to their employees.

“Given the possibility that other counties may follow suit, Governor Cox has provided the following statewide direction and guidance to all state departments:


  • While mask wearing is supported if desired, state-owned facilities will not require employees or visitors to wear a mask in our buildings. Exceptions are state-operated 24-7 congregate care facilities that have existing mask requirements, the UDOH health clinic, and UDOH on-site structures for COVID-19 testing (sometimes known as “conexes”). 
  • The best tool against COVID-19 continues to be vaccinations and boosters. 
  • We continue to support voluntary mask wearing, getting tested, and staying home when sick. High-quality masks were delivered to all UDOH/DHS buildings last week. If you would like a mask, please ask your building’s administrative support or employee support contact.
  • If you are sick and choose not to be tested, you should stay home for five days after symptoms start AND you are symptom free. For the latest guidelines from UDOH, please see here. These are the standards that our administration will ask you to enforce in response to COVID-19.”


Salt Lake County Mayor Wilson’s response

When word of this reached its way to Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, she fired back with a statement blasting the governor’s decision.  The statement says Governor Cox doesn’t have the authority to exempt state buildings from the mandate.

It reads, in part…

“Last year the legislature passed SB195, which created a process whereby health orders of ‘constraint’ can be issued by a local health department. Those orders can be terminated by the local chief executive officer within 72 hours of issuance, or they can be overridden by the local legislative body at any time. The legislation does not allow for the Governor to disregard the local health order.”

Plus, Wilson calls it a blatant disregard for public safety.  Some people visiting the Capitol can see her point.

“It seems a little irresponsible with how high the COVID cases are,” one woman said.

Governor Cox stands by his decision

Governor Cox responded, saying he supports Mayor Wilson’s efforts, and that they encourage everyone to follow mandates wherever they’re issued.  However, his statement says counties don’t have the authority to bind state buildings in their mandates.

His statement reads…

“We stand by our earlier guidance to state employees to encourage but not require masks in state facilities, and we continue to urge all Utahns to be vaccinated and boosted.”

Other visitors to the Capitol say people should follow the advice of health officials, but they still believe masking should be a choice.

One man said, “If people keep their distance, and they’re away from people, then you don’t need to mask up.”

One woman says she’s not certain how effective masks are in preventing the spread of the Omicron variant. However, she has plenty of reasons to believe masks are effective in preventing overall illness.

“My little one, who is prone to pneumonia at 10 years old, didn’t get sick last year.  So, it did do something,” she said.

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Salt Lake County Mayor blasts Gov. Cox’s decision on masks in state-run buildings