SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah, Jan. 13, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — The Salt Lake County Council has voted 5 to 4 to uphold the emergency mask mandate issued last week by Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Dr. Angela Dunn.
The emergency vote was held Thursday afternoon after the Council had previously voted to allow the public health order to stand.
Dunn issued the order as Utah’s infection rates for COVID-19 started reaching record highs, while at the same time medical facilities started to be overrun by patients.
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, who forwarded Dunn’s 30-day order to the Council on Friday commented on the Council’s decision in a statement Thursday.
“Salt Lake County currently has nearly 47,000 reported cases of COVID-19 over the last 14 days, our largest number in the pandemic. Our schools are in disarray due to such large spread and our economy is being impacted by staffing shortages due to active COVID-19 cases. Most importantly, high case counts lead to high hospitalizations and the loss of life,” said Mayor Wilson.
“There is some good news with the likely decline of Omicron cases on the east coast of the United States, yet evidence is that we have not yet ‘peaked’ here in Utah. I am very hopeful that we will see a rapid decline and that we have a healthier spring ahead, but in the meantime we must all do our part.”
The order went into effect on Saturday, Jan. 8, and is currently planned to be in force until 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 7.
“The order requires people in Salt Lake County, regardless of vaccination status or past COVID-19 infection, to wear well-fitting masks when indoors (or queueing outdoors) in public. For optimal protection, wearing respirators, such as KN95s, is recommended instead of cloth masks,” Wilson’s office reiterated in a statement Thursday afternoon.
Thursday’s vote is not the final word on the issue. Leaders of the Utah State Legislature have indicated they may very well overturn the Council’s decision to let the mandate stand, the kind of health measure they characterize as government overreach. A bill passed in the spring, SB-195, allows the Legislature to ultimately overrule any emergency health mandate.
Council Chairperson Laurie Stringham said she would be meeting Monday with state leaders to consider possible alternatives.