SALT LAKE CITY — As long as the data backs up the request, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert says he is likely to grant Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson the power to mandate masks to fight COVID-19.
Herbert said he received Wilson’s request and planned to meet with state officials Thursday to discuss it. At that meeting, Herbert said they will review case counts and other available information.
I’m a local control person, says @GovHerbert.
He is inclined to grant that request. But will decide tomorrow.
— Utah COVID-19 Community Task Force (@UtahCoronavirus) June 24, 2020
He said he is “inclined” to say yes, but the official decision would come only after reviewing the data.
No statewide mask mandate
Herbert said he will not issue a statewide mandate to wear masks. He said he prefers to leave local governance to local officials.
However, he encouraged all Utahns to consider wearing a mask to protect others when they can’t be at least six feet away.
All Utahns should be very concerned about the recent increases in infections and how that could impact our hospital capacity. We mourn with those who have lost loved ones.
— Gov. Gary Herbert (@GovHerbert) June 24, 2020
“Data clearly shows that the simple courtesy of wearing a mask in public when social distancing is not possible is a very effective and low-cost way to prevent the spread of disease,” Herbert tweeted.
He also said he would require people who do business with the state to wear masks.
“Today, I am also signing an executive order that requires mask wearing at all state facilities under the purview of the executive Office of the Governor,” he said. “This will include state higher educational facilities and our DABC outlets.”
No green status for Utah yet
Because of the sharp uptick in Utah cases of COVID-19, Herbert said the state would not consider any requests to relax color-coded guidelines for at least the next two weeks.
“All Utahns should be very concerned about the recent increases in infections and how that could impact our hospital capacity. We mourn with those who have lost loved ones,” Herbert said.
Most of Utah remains in the “yellow” phase of the state’s Utah Leads Together plan. Yellow denotes low risk; some of the more rural areas in the state moved to “green” earlier this month. Salt Lake City remains “orange.”
Regardless of the color-code of the area where you live, Herbert said if you are considered high-risk, you should take extra precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Herbert staff member tests positive for COVID-19
Herbert told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that one of his staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
Without identifying the staff member, Herbert told reporters the staffer was receiving medical care.
“I was not directly exposed during this period,” he said, “nor was Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.”
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, state employees have been observing strict guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“All members of my staff have been monitored for symptoms. As they come into the office, they’re checked, and they’re required to wear a face mask at work,” Herbert said.
Clarifying the memo
State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn also spoke briefly at Wednesday’s news conference to clarify her own comments in a widely circulated memo to state employees.
The memo, she said, was intended to provide advice and options, not to suggest she wants the state’s economy to shut down.
“My intention in the memo was not to say that we should shut down. No one wants that,” she said.
She said her comments were meant to give stakeholders the best possible information as they make decisions for the health of all Utahns.
“We as Utahns should feel proud that leadership is willing to listen to all of these opinions and strike the right balance moving forward,” Dunn said.
This story is developing and will be updated.
How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus
COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
- If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
- Get a flu shot.
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707
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