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SLC mayor urges business owners to keep mask policies after the state mandate expires

SALT LAKE CITY – The Mayor of Utah’s capital city is asking all business owners to keep their current mask policies in place. She asked them to do this even after the state mask mandate expires on April 10. Small business owners came out to support her.

(Employees of Santo Taco, cooking after the mayor’s press conference on March 19, 2021. Credit: Paul Nelson)

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall made her plea for mask policies outside the doors of Santo Taco on 900 West near 900 South. Owner Alfonso Brito says he had no intention of changing his mask policy when the state mandate expires.

Brito says, “What’s most important is the safety of our community. That’s why we encourage everybody who comes to our restaurant to use a mask.”

Next door to Santo Taco is Break Bread Barber Company. Its owner Ricky Arriola says all his staff and customers will be all masked until health officials say those masks are no longer needed. He says the risk of another COVID-19 spike is too real and he won’t take a chance.

“As a part of the community, we have everyone’s interest to consider.  As long as we’re working on it together, we will see past this,” says Arriola.

Larger companies, like Harmon’s Grocery, are also on board with the mayor’s suggestion. President and CEO Mark Jensen says they want employees to keep wearing the masks at least until they’re all vaccinated. And that could take another eight weeks. Jensen says they don’t like wearing masks either and he hopes people won’t lash out at the employees who try to enforce the store’s policy.

“Really, our story is ‘kill them with kindness.’  It has gotten easier as the pandemic has gone on,” Jensen says.

Mayor Mendenhall says she’s happy that COVID-19 case rates are on the decline, and that businesses are seeing more customers. But, she believes masks should stay on until health experts say otherwise. She believes Salt Lake County’s mask ordinance went a long way to prevent the spread of the virus and to make people feel comfortable enough to go out.
 
“Mask wearing is still vital. We’re not done,” Mendenhall says.
 
Would she enact a citywide mask policy after the state mandate expires? Mendenhall says that’s something she’s speaking with city attorneys about.
 
“It’s different than the way we would have had to request permission in the past, as you know,” she says. “Hopefully, we’re not going to be faced with the need to put in a local mandate, but it’s an option that I’ll keep on the table.”
 

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