Toward the end of Utah’s 2021 General Legislative Session, a bill was passed signaling the end of mask mandates across the state. House Bill 294 stated that all COVID-19 public health orders statewide would come to an end once three criteria were met: 1) the state's 14-day case rate is less than 191 per 100,000 people, 2) the statewide seven-day average COVID-19 ICU utilization is less than 15 percent, and 3) 1,633,000 prime doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been allocated to the state. Additionally, House Bill 294 provided that all blanket mask mandates would expire on April 10, 2021. If the state failed to meet any of the three criteria, however, then local health departments could recommend a mask mandate for their jurisdiction, subject to the approval of the jurisdiction’s legislative body.
As we approached April 10, the Salt Lake County Council received hundreds of emails from constituents on both sides of the issue – requesting that the Council either vote to extend or not to extend the mask mandate in Salt Lake County. It also became clear that the state as a whole would satisfy only two out of the three criteria, and therefore a mask mandate could be recommended by the county health department, pending the approval of the county council. For us, that meant we would await the recommendation of Salt Lake County Health Director Gary Edwards, and then determine the county’s next steps.
The Council received a letter from Edwards on April 7, in which he stated he did not believe a mask mandate was necessary and that he would not be recommending a mask mandate for Salt Lake County. Because state legislation said that the council could only consider a mandate if the health department director recommended one, the Council did not have action to consider. The mask mandate ended in Salt Lake County as state law dictated.
At a recent press conference, the County Council emphasized the need for vigilance as we continue to fight against the spread of COVID-19. The vaccine will help us return to normal. I’ve been fully vaccinated and recommend that residents get their vaccine as soon as possible. I also hope we can all be considerate and mindful of others. If you are around people in a confined space and you don’t know if they have been vaccinated, please wear your mask. While masks are not required by the State of Utah or the Salt Lake County Health Department, individual business and property owners have the right to require masks on their property. Please be respectful. I support these businesses and their right to require a mask to help protect their employees and customers. The Utah Board of Education has also not lifted its requirement that masks be worn in schools. Additionally, masks are still required by the state in gatherings larger than 50 people. In places where masks are not required, let’s not judge those who choose to wear a mask or those who feel comfortable not wearing one. We need civility right now more than ever!
I am looking forward to seeing this pandemic end. I know we are all tired and ready to get back to normal. Please remember that just because the mask mandate is over, it does not mean the pandemic is over. Please be safe, respectful, and continue to sanitize. We will get through this together!
Aimee Winder Newton has been serving on the Salt Lake County Council since January 2014. She is the current chair of the council. Her district encompasses Murray, Taylorsville, West Valley City and West Jordan, and a small portion of South Salt Lake and Millcreek... [read more]
|Aimee Winder Newton||
aimee winder newton: County Council district 3