The Salt Lake County Health Department issued a 30-day mask order in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the state.
The order on Friday follows a letter sent by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall to the Salt Lake County Health Department requesting a mask requirement. The letter urged the department to adopt “a county-wide requirement for life-saving masks in public spaces in the coming weeks.”
It also comes after Salt Lake County Councilor Aimee Winder Newton announced she would support a county-wide mask mandate.
The new masking order requires residents of Salt Lake County to wear tight-fitting masks when indoors in public starting at 12:01 am Saturday. It runs until February 7.
Dr. Angela C. Dunn, executive director of the Salt Lake County Department of Health, issued the public health order.
Everyone is required to wear a mask in the county, regardless of their immunization status or background Covid-19 infection.
For optimal protection, Dr Dunn recommended wearing respirators, such as KN95s, instead of sheet masks if possible.
“We desperately need to use all the tools available to ensure that our hospitals can continue to provide excellent health care during this increase,” Dr Dunn said in a press release. “We also need to make sure our essential services have the staff they need to function, from law enforcement to plow operators to teachers. It is my duty as a health worker to take the actions that I believe have the best chance of avoiding unnecessary suffering in our community. “
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson approved the order on Friday evening. She released a statement thanking Dunn for his efforts in trying to bring the latest wave of COVID-19 under control.
I deeply appreciate the expertise of Dr Angela Dunn, our County Public Health Director. I accept his recommendation for a 30-day county-wide mask requirement in Salt Lake County, ”Wilson wrote. “The Omicron variant spread quickly. Just two weeks ago we were at 500 cases a day in Salt Lake County. Today we are sitting at over 4,600 a day. We recognize the sense of urgency in our community as hospitals are threatened. We need to use all available tools to slow the spread and high quality masks worn indoors in public spaces are a proven measure. Our county is open, we are operating as usual. This is a temporary step that is necessary to get us through this next phase of COVID. “
The warrant was then forwarded to Salt Lake County Council.
Council President Laurie Stringham said she received the order shortly after Wilson signed it.
She said she is still revising the language of the mandate and that the board caucus will meet on Saturday to discuss it. However, she said she did not plan to call a special meeting to vote on the issue before the city council meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
Order exemptions include:
- People under the age of two and those with health problems, impairments or disabilities that prevent the wearing of the mask.
- Individuals performing work alone and individuals for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the individual related to their work as determined by local, state or federal regulators or occupational safety guidelines.
- Individuals seated in a restaurant or other catering establishment while actively eating or drinking.
Education about the purpose of the order and providing a mask to offenders will be the primary method of enforcement. The purpose of this ordinance is to protect public health and the personnel of our critical industries, not to hold anyone criminally responsible.
Authorities are asking businesses and other public spaces to enforce the order.