Herbert mandates masks for K-12 schools; stops short of statewide public mandate

Jul 9, 2020, 12:39 PM | Updated: 1:16 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert stopped short of issuing a statewide mandate for Utahns to wear masks in public, but said the state will require students, faculty, staff and visitors to wear masks inside all K-12 schools this fall, including charter schools. 

Three Utah counties currently require masks to be worn in public. Herbert said they requested that power, which the state granted, in part because he believes local officials should make those decisions.   

“It’s the curveball of all curveballs that have been thrown at us,” Herbert said of the pandemic. 

Statewide mandate — for schools only, for now

Previously, Herbert had made the wearing of a face-covering only mandatory for state workers, and those doing business within state government buildings.

In a news conference on Thursday, Herbert said, “This pandemic has really been a unique situation we’ve never really seen in Utah, certainly in the last hundred years.”

“We’re finding from our science, our medicine and our healthcare providers is that one of the best ways we can reduce the transmission of the coronavirus is, in fact, to wear a face covering.

“The percentage of the likelihood of transmitting or catching [the virus] goes down dramatically if we follow what most of us would think is just a common-sense application.”

The mandate for masks in schools statewide will also apply to buses. 

Governor issues challenge but stops short of statewide mandate

Herbert said that he has the constitutional authority to mandate the wearing of masks, but he would not do that at this time.

“This is an issue that’s been tested by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution and the Supreme Court has weighed in on this.

“At this time, I choose not to make it a mandate. I’m going to give the people of Utah an opportunity to show the kind of people and the character that they have and which I believe we’ve demonstrated in times past.”

Herbert said he’s calling on the people of Utah to bring the state’s rolling average of new cases of COVID-19 below 500 before August 1. He says that if that doesn’t happen, they may have to take greater action. 

He says that he doesn’t want this to be a divisive issue, and hopes masks will become less of a political issue. 

“It’s just good, common sense. It’s wisdom that we should practice. I choose to say let’s let the people make those decisions.

“Here’s the opportunity for us the people to control our own destiny,” Herbert said.

“I believe in you as we work together, wash your hands, wear the mask, put our shoulder to the wheel push along, push along, all of us working together, we can conquer this.”

Mistakes were made

Herbert says that he thinks that while the state has done a good job in preparing what he called the most comprehensive plan in the nation, there are things that the state could have done better. Specifically, he said it may have been a mistake to define Utah’s color-coded response system to the virus by “risk.” 

“I appreciate the work of the people of Utah,” Herbert said. “A better way to have said it… would have been ‘restrictions.'”

According to Herbert, now that most of the state is in the “yellow” stage, a lot of people heard yellow means “low risk, and stopped taking basic precautions.

“We’ve probably dropped our guard a little bit, become complacent,” Herbert said. 

“One of the best ways we can reduce the transmission of the coronavirus is in fact to wear a face covering,” Herbert said, adding that the risk goes down dramatically if we all do it. “The concern we have today is that our infection rates have gone up.”

Noting that Utah normally tops lists in the country for volunteerism and charitable giving, he asked all Utahns to do their part to reverse the trend. 

“I believe in the people of Utah. There’s no greater caring people in America, maybe the world,” he said. 

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is 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.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States


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Herbert mandates masks for K-12 schools; stops short of statewide public mandate