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Salt Lake County mayor asks governor for permission to require face coverings

A Utah man is being charged following a fight over a face mask. Jonathan Crocker is facing a misdemeanor assault charge after the incident inside a Cafe Rio last month. (PHOTO: Credit Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – COVID-19 cases have been spiking in recent weeks in Utah, prompting health officials to urge state leaders to do something to flatten the curve; like requiring face coverings. 

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson has now sent a letter to Governor Gary Herbert asking for permission to make wearing face coverings mandatory in restaurants (except when someone is eating their food), retail stores, and at community gatherings.  

Mayor Wilson has to get the governor’s permission to institute any regulation more stringent than those of the state. 

If approved, anyone who violates the rules the first time would be given a warning, while repeat violators would be fined. 

Some people have expressed concerns about the government overreaching in requiring a face covering.

At the County Council’s Work Meeting on Tuesday, the mayor responded that she believes it is a public health issue. 

“There’s a reason we have seat belt laws; it saves lives. There’s a reason we have regulation within our community. There’s a reason that we have a series of health regulations from A to Z,” Wilson said. 

In an interview with KSL News Radio, the mayor reiterated her concerns about the hospital system being overwhelmed within the next month or so, when they had previously been able to handle the region’s COVID-19 cases. 

“They’re now walking around measuring beds again. Additionally, the case tracing is a very, very intense operation of the healthcare staff. My own team, we are seeing numbers that really put a lot of pressure on the system,” Wilson said. 

Salt Lake County has the majority of hospital and ICU beds in the state. 

Mayor Wilson also signaled support for a special carve-out for people with asthma, who sometimes find it difficult to wear a face covering. Some have complained in the past that wearing one can trigger an asthma attack.  

Ultimately, Wilson thinks face coverings will help get life back to normal.

“I think if our county residents adhere to this ask, whether it’s voluntary or the governor allows a more specific regulatory action, it’s going to keep us healthier,” Wilson said.