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Utah organizations respond to Gov. Herbert’s decision to enforce a mask mandate and other restrictions

(Spencer Cox, left, and current Utah governor, Gary Herbert, bump elbows during the press conference in the capitol's Gold Room. Credit: Steve Griffin, Deseret News.)

SALT LAKE CITY– It’s official. After months of encouraging Utahns to wear a mask, limit social gatherings, and practice physical distancing to no avail, Utah governor Gary Herbert has issued a mask mandate and other restrictions for the next two weeks. Gov. Herbert also declared another State of Emergency due to the surge of COVID-19 infections around Utah.

To accompany the statewide mask mandate, Gov. Herbert announced social gatherings will be limited to only those inside your household, the majority of school extracurricular activities will be canceled and increased COVID-19 testing will occur. 

As the usage of masks has become increasingly political, with some Utahans arguing masks mandates are unconstitutional, other residents and organizations across the state believe the governor’s announcement is long overdue.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn applauded the governor’s actions to slow the spread of the virus that is overwhelming Utah’s healthcare system. 

 

And she’s not alone. A few Utah organizations have spoken out in support of the recent regulations issued by Gov. Herbert. 

Utah Medical Association support governor mandates 

The Utah Medical Association (UMA) has been urging the governor to issue a mask mandate for months and on Sunday night, they finally got their wish.

In a statement from UMA on Monday, it said they fully support Gov. Herbert’s mandates and the decision to instate a new Public Health Emergency to combat the rise in COVID-19 infections.

 “We agree with the Governor that the time for debate is past. Utahns need to wear their masks, keep their distance, and avoid gatherings that include those who do not live with them,” said UMA President Sharon Richens, MD.

Dr. Richens went on to say while no one likes mandates, the steps by the governor to enforce common-sense health practices will help save the lives of Utahns. 

We should think of it more as a heroic act on behalf of our neighbors and fellow citizens who need our help to stay healthy,” added Dr. Richens. “Healthcare workers in Utah’s hospitals have been working tirelessly and selflessly for months to care for those who have contracted the virus,” continued Dr. Richens. 

She encouraged Utahns to return the favor of protection from healthcare workers by following the mandates outlined by the governor. 

The Salt Lake Chamber supports the State of Emergency 

Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 among the Salt Lake community, the Salt Lake Chamber stated Monday it supports the governor’s actions to declare the State of Emergency.  

“We welcome Governor Herbert’s declaration,” said Derek Miller, President and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance. “Our healthcare system cannot sustain the current spread without seriously reducing the quality of care patients receive,” said Miller. 

Miller stated the business community has been a leader in attempting to slow the spread of COVID-19 by implementing the “Stay Safe Stay Open” campaign where businesses pledged to take steps to protect employees and consumers. 

“Our members and employers throughout the state have worked to balance the two critical imperatives of promoting health and economic wellbeing of individuals, families, and our community,” said Miller.

“Public health and economic wellbeing are not mutually exclusive, in fact, they are mutually supportive in protecting lives and livelihoods.”

Utah House Democrats approve of the mask mandate and call for empathy  

In a statement Monday, the Utah House Democrats said they support Gov. Herbert’s decision to issue a mask mandate and called on Utahns to empathize with fellow residents who need protection from the virus. 

“It is reasonable and responsible leadership to require people to wear masks to allow our lives, schools, and businesses to continue functioning,” said House Democrats.   

The Utah House Democrats said they have been pushing for policies that follow public health science and stated Utah will only have a strong economy if Utahns themselves are healthy.  

“We commend all those who are being smart and conscientious, and we encourage all Utahns to support our healthcare workers.  This time demands empathy and sacrifice from everyone,” said Utah Democrats. “Together, we will get through this.”   

Utah High School Activities Association will work with state leaders on changes 

In a statement Sunday, the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) said it was aware of the declarations made by Gov. Herbert and will work with state leaders on how to handle certain scenarios. 

“The UHSAA will communicate with member schools as soon as information is available on protocols and procedures moving forward,” said the Association. 

 The Association said the safety of students and staff in Utah high schools will continue to be a top priority.