GOVERNMENT

UPDATED: Utah House overturns Salt Lake, Summit county mask mandates

Jan 21, 2022, 11:20 AM | Updated: Jan 22, 2022, 8:52 am
overturn mask mandates...
Eighth grade students and their teacher wear masks during their dual language class at Mount Jordan Middle School in Sandy on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, as Salt Lake County has issued a 30-day mask order. (Mengshin Lin/Deseret News)
(Mengshin Lin/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House of Representatives has voted to overturn public mask mandates in Salt Lake and Summit counties today. 

Before the 45-29 vote to overturn, the news was confirmed to KSL Newsradio and the Deseret News by House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, Friday morning. He says many members of the House Majority Caucus have asked to have an opportunity to vote on this.

Working with the Salt Lake County Council

Wilson says the House has been quietly working with the Salt Lake County Council to make this happen.

“They’re good people —they’re just having a hard time getting all on the same page,” Wilson told KSL Newsradio. “The widespread belief in our caucus is that masks make a lot of sense for people, but we believe it’s an individual choice if they want them.”

The Salt Lake County Council did not overturn the mask mandate last week in a special meeting, mainly after Council Chair Laurie Stringham said she wouldn’t vote to overturn it.

Stringham’s biggest complaint was that state lawmakers had given local leaders no other tools than “keep” or “remove”.

With today’s news, Stringham issued this statement: 

“I am dedicated to keeping our community open and our residents healthy. As our workforce diminishes and hospitals fill with COVID patients, I will continue to look for ways to help our community with this local issue. After discussing the need to help with schools, first responders, healthcare and businesses with the Speaker yesterday, it was disappointing to see the State interfere with local decisions dedicated to the well-being of Salt Lake County residents, without any other solutions offered. I will continue to look for solutions to getting us through the next few weeks and urge people to take the necessary precautions to protect the health of you and your families.”

Wilson says the mask mandate has really been the source of a lot of division.

“The vast majority of our state has the same covid transmission rates as Salt Lake County, but there’s something really different about what’s happening in the rest of our state,” Wilson says. “There’s not the division, there’s not the contention because of a government-imposed mask mandate.”

Support for the mandate’s removal

The Speaker, Majority Leader Mike Schultz, Majority Whip Jefferson Moss, and the Majority Assistant Whip Val Peterson released the following statement:

A statement from the Majority Caucus leadership about the mask mandate removal.

Salt Lake County Councilwoman Dea Theodore, who voted against the mandate in last week’s county council meeting, released a statement as well: 

“This is a victory for rationality and liberty. The state legislature prudently reserved the authority to prevent the decisions of one or two local officials from restricting the personal freedoms of approximately 1.5 million Utah residents. It is a shame they were forced to exercise that authority, but I am pleased that the rights of every Utah resident to make their own health decisions have been preserved.”

The Governor expressed his support for the removal of the mandate on KSL Newsradio’s Let Me Speak to the Governor, just moments after the vote.

Opposition to the mandate’s removal

The Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson came out strong against lawmakers’ actions this morning, calling them “misguided.”

“Please continue to wear good-quality masks while in public,” Mayor Wilson said in a statement. “We are at very high rates of COVID spread and we are hopeful to have the Omicron variant of the virus behind us soon.  Health experts agree masks worn properly help contain the spread of COVID.”

County Health Director Dr. Angela Dunn’s statement was more subdued, not addressing the legislature’s actions outright, but calling for people to prioritize their health and the health of those around them.

“Effectively protecting our most vulnerable community members—and ensuring that our businesses and essential services have the staff necessary to operate—requires layering our various prevention tools; this includes being up to date on the vaccine, staying home when ill, and wearing a respirator mask in public during this surge. We encourage Salt Lake County residents and visitors to do these things, regardless of whether or not a mandate is in place.”

The Utah Democratic Party also made their disagreement with their fellow lawmakers on Capitol Hill known. 

“This resolution is a complete and total affront to the role of local elected officials in making decisions that are right for their communities,” said Utah Democratic Party Chair Diane Lewis in a statement. “With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing across the state, leaders in Salt Lake and Summit Counties, as well as Salt Lake City, used the authority given to them by the legislature just last year to institute temporary mask mandates, at the recommendation of local health departments, that will help mitigate the ongoing public health crisis. But Republicans at the Capitol decided that they know better than the experts and local leaders, and they bypassed the usual committee process to unilaterally impose their will on the people of Utah without even allowing a public hearing on the issue. The Republican Party cannot be trusted to respect the decisions of voters and the local leaders they’ve elected.”

What else?

Even with the mask mandate being removed for the two counties, businesses can still require masks should they desire. The vote does eliminate the mask requirement in Salt Lake City schools.

The Utah Jazz and Vivint Arena will no longer require masks unless fans are sitting near the players’ benches — then they do have to mask up. The arena still requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

Lindsay Aerts and Katie McKellar contributed to the reporting of this article.

Today’s Top Stories

Government

A can of baby formula...
Amie Schaeffer

Utah Department of Health gives update on formula shortage

The Utah Department of Health released an updated on Thursday to address current availability of baby formula.
18 hours ago
Sen. Derek Kitchen opens bill file to change age to purchase a firearm from 21 to 18....
Waverly Golden

From 18 to 21: Utah lawmaker wants to raise firearms purchasing age

Senator Derek Kitchen opens a bill file to change the age to buy a firearm from 21-years-old to 18-years-old.
2 days ago
drop box video surveillance...
Lindsay Aerts

Drop box surveillance installed by Utah clerks, but questions remain

Questions around drop box surveillance in Utah involve privacy, getting permission to install the cameras, and what happens to the video.
2 days ago
Sen Lee debates formula...
Mark Jones

Utah leaders react to tragic Texas school shooting

Utah leaders react to the deadly Texas shooting on Tuesday that claimed at least 21 lives.
3 days ago
Council of Governors...
Mark Jones

Gov. Cox orders flags to be lowered to honor victims of the Texas shooting

On Tuesday, Gov. Cox ordered all U.S. and Utah flags at state buildings to be lowered in honor of the victims of the Uvalde, Texas shooting.
3 days ago
Students in graduation caps. The Utah graduation rate went up over the past few years....
Amie Schaeffer

Utah sees steady increase in graduation rates

Utah saw a gradual overall increase in its graduation rate over the past eight years. Data released Tuesday, shows rates by school.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
UPDATED: Utah House overturns Salt Lake, Summit county mask mandates