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Salt Lake County lays out plan for businesses reopening, then walks back some requirements for customers

Salt Lake County changes rules, requiring only employees in businesses to wear masks

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson wears a mask as Gary Edwards, health department executive director, discusses the county’s phased reopening plan during a press conference at the county’s Emergency Management Emergency Coordination Center in South Salt Lake on Wednesday. Many places that can begin reopening will be required to have staff and customers wear masks.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Though Salt Lake County leaders announced earlier Wednesday face masks would be required of both customers and employees in businesses when the county begins to reopen starting Friday, county officials backtracked and scaled back those requirements Wednesday evening.

Rather, only employees in most businesses will be required to wear face masks — customers aren’t, according to updated rules circulated by county officials later Wednesday, more than eight hours after county leaders held a press conference saying masks would be required for all in those business settings.

The only exception is in “personal services” businesses such as hair and nail salons, tattoo and massage parlors and tanning salons — where both customers and employees will be required to wear face masks, which is in line with the state’s requirements.

The rule change, according to Salt Lake County Health Department spokesman Nicholas Rupp, came after county officials discovered the rules presented in Wednesday morning’s press conference was “draft guidance” based on the state’s “draft plan.”

County leaders later decided to update their rules to better match the state’s requirements as businesses including dine-in restaurants, hair and nail salons, tattoo and massage parlors, and gyms are allowed to begin reopening Friday.

“After making the announcement, we again reviewed the governor’s plan and decided that in the interest of simplicity for the community that we should better align with the statewide plan and removed the customer face covering requirement in the industries that we were originally considering requiring,” Rupp said.

Earlier Wednesday, county officials released the initial draft of the documents “as quickly as we could so businesses could begin reopening,” Rupp said. He noted the rules could “evolve as time goes on” and as county officials evaluate COVID-19 case data after the new requirements take effect.

Rupp acknowledged the county’s rule change after Wednesday morning’s announcement will be confusing to county residents amid the coronavirus pandemic’s already challenging time.

“We absolutely acknowledge that this rapidly changing and ever-evolving circumstance with the pandemic period and what recommendations are based on data is confusing inherently,” he said, noting that residents can contact county officials for clarity. “We’re always here to answer questions.”

With the updated rules posted to the county’s website, Rupp said both the county’s requirements are now “100% in line with the state as far as face coverings go.”

He noted that while customers aren’t required to wear face masks, county residents and Utahns are still “strongly encouraged” to wear face coverings “at all times they are in public places, but that’s not a requirement.”

In Wednesday morning’s press conference, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson presented the earlier draft of the county’s requirements, saying as businesses reopen they will need to operate differently, and customers will need to take precautions as well,” she said. “Face masks, social distancing and sanitizing will be a requirement.”

“This is a different world we’re living in. We’re going to have this virus with us for some time,” the mayor said. “It’s still with us, and it’s still deadly.”

For people who still aren’t wearing masks when they go out in public, “that needs to stop,” Wilson said.

In accordance with Gov. Gary Herbert’s announcement a day earlier to move Utah’s COVID-19 risk level to “moderate” or “orange” starting Friday, the Salt Lake County mayor announced the county’s phased reopening to match that date.

Though Gary Edwards had said Wednesday morning Salt Lake County’s health order differs from the state’s order in that face masks are required in circumstances that Herbert’s statewide order only recommends masks, that statement is no longer accurate.

Under the county’s updated rules, businesses with employees who aren’t wearing face masks as required would violate the county’s orders. When county officials hear of violations, “we’re going to have to do more to crack down,” the mayor said.

Any violation of a public health order is a violation of law, Wilson said, and could result in fines. The health department will enforce business violations.

“We, in this era of concern, don’t want to be heavy-handed,” she said, “but where there are violations we would ask local governments to indeed enforce.”

Edwards said officials hope that enforcement is not a major focus.

“Let’s all own our responsibility and what we can do,” he said.

Here are the county’s updated requirements by industry, as specified on the county’s website, slco.org/together:

Food service

Takeout, curbside pickup and delivery are still “encouraged,” Wilson said, but starting Friday dine-in services will be allowed. However, businesses must delay opening until they are able to meet all the requirements under Salt Lake County’s health order. Those requirements include:

  • Employees must always wear face coverings over the nose and mouth. Customers are “strongly encouraged” to wear face coverings and remove their face coverings while actively dining.
  • Ill employees and customers aren’t allowed inside. Managers must monitor themselves and all employees at the beginning of their shifts for symptoms, including maintaining a temperature log of employees that is available for inspection by the health department. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 must not be allowed on the premises. Establishments must offer to record customer contact information so public health may contact customers in case of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Establishments must maintain physical distancing in both employee and customer areas. Indoor and outdoor waiting and dining areas must allow for at least 6 feet of space between customer groups. Customers aren’t allowed to occupy adjacent booths, no matter how high seat backs are. Only up to six people are allowed to dine together in one group. The total number of guests must not exceed 50% of the approved occupancy limit.
  • Bar patrons must not be seated within 6 feet of other patrons, nor any taps, food, clean glasses or the bartender work area. Seats and stools within 6 feet of these items must be removed or remain unoccupied at all times.
  • High-risk customers are encouraged to take advantage of takeout options. Takeout customers may order inside the establishment if barriers or floor markers are placed to keep customers at least 6 feet apart.
  • Children’s play areas inside and outside of restaurants must remain closed. Hosts are encouraged to open doors for customers and discourage customers congregating at the entrance. Live entertainment and games are not allowed.
  • Customers may use self-service drink stations, provided the machines and surfaces are sanitized by an employee at least every 30 minutes. Cups, lids, straws and other single-use items must be given to customers by employees who are wearing gloves. Condiments cannot be kept on tables but may be provided to guests upon request. Condiment containers must be disinfected after each use; condiment stations must be disinfected at least every 30 minutes.

Personal services

Starting Friday, businesses including hair and nail salons, day spas, massage studios, tattoo parlors, and tanning establishments can reopen in Salt Lake County if they strictly follow these requirements:

  • They must operate by appointment only, with no walk-ins allowed. Establishments must offer to record customer contact information so public health may contact customers in case of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Employees must always wear face coverings over the nose and mouth. Tanning customers may remove their face covering while in the booth/room actively tanning.
  • Services that cannot be performed with face coverings in place (lip waxing, beard trimming, etc.) are not allowed. The customer may remove their face covering for short periods of time to facilitate specific components of a service that is otherwise able to be conducted with the covering in place. For example, the customer can remove a face covering secured with ear loops, or hold the face covering to their face with their hand, while a stylist is working around the ears during a haircut.
  • Ill employees and customers aren’t allowed inside. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 must not be allowed on the premises. Establishments must post signs to advise both employees to stay home if ill.
  • Workstations must be sanitized regularly and placed at least 6 feet apart, and waiting areas must encourage distancing. Only the customer and their specific provider may be within 6 feet of one another during the service.

Gyms, fitness centers

Starting Friday, Salt Lake County gyms and fitness centers including yoga, martial arts and dance studios will be allowed to reopen as long as they strictly follow these requirements:

  • Employees must always wear face coverings over the nose and mouth. Customers are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings unless engaged in physical activity during which a face covering could adversely affect breathing.
  • Sick employees and patrons aren’t allowed inside. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 must not be allowed on the premises. Establishments must post signs to advise both employees to stay home if ill.
  • Employees and patrons must maintain 6-feet social distancing — and 10 feet during workouts. Check-in and waiting areas must have barriers or floor markers to keep customers 6 feet apart at all times. Establishments must maintain 10 feet of distance between customers in all workout areas, which may require limiting the number of patrons allowed in the facility at one time. Workout equipment must be arranged so customers are not within 10 feet of each other. Group classes must be scheduled by appointment and instructors must limit class sizes to ensure 10 feet between customers.
  • All workout equipment must be sanitized between each use. No sign-in sheets, touchpads, or similar mechanisms are allowed.
  • Hot tubs and children’s pools must remain closed. Swimming pools are limited to one swimmer per lane or 50% of their capacity. Congregating on the pool deck is not allowed. Locker room and shower access must be restricted to pool users only so they can take a cleansing shower before entering a pool, as required by existing health regulations. Steam rooms must remain closed unless a dedicated employee controls access and determines occupancy based on the ability for customers to remain 6 feet apart.

Cultural, entertainment and sports venues

Starting Friday, entertainment venues including theaters, museums, zoos, aquariums, aviaries and sports arenas will be allowed to reopen if they strictly follow theses requirements:

  • Employees must always wear face coverings over the nose and mouth. Customers are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings whenever possible.
  • Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 must not be allowed on the premises. Establishments must post signs to advise both employees to stay home if ill.
  • Social distancing of 6 feet between people is the standard guideline applicable at all venues at all times. Establishments must monitor the number of guests entering a venue to ensure adequate distance. Signs are required to help individuals stand at least 6 feet apart when in common areas or while visiting exhibits.
  • Group programs, camps and tours are not allowed. Establishments must establish a window of time for high-risk groups to come in without pressure from crowds and/or separate entrances and queues.
  • Movie theaters, sports arenas and other venues with auditorium or stadium seating must maintain 10 feet of space in all directions between individual household groups while seated.
  • Reserved-seating facilities with stage performers should keep at least three empty seats between individuals or family groups in each row, at least two vacant rows between occupied rows, and the first five rows should be left vacant in auditoriums where performers sing or speak toward the audience.
  • Bowling alleys, batting cages, golf facilities and other venues with “lanes” must keep one to two lanes vacant between groups to meet social-distancing requirements.
  • Arcades must space games so that there is at least 6 feet between each machine.
  • Concessions and restaurant seating within any venue must be compliant with dine-in food service guidelines.
  • Employees must frequently disinfect high-touch surfaces.

Social gatherings in general public

Salt Lake County has begun to slowly loosen the “stay home, stay safe” requirements. Starting Friday, county residents who aren’t “high risk” (or people over 65 with an underlying medical condition) can visit newly opened businesses — but only if they follow these requirements:

  • Everyone is encouraged to stay at least 6 feet away from others whenever possible when outside the home, and to wear a face mask in public settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
  • Residents are still encouraged to leave home infrequently, prioritize virtual interactions over in-person meetings, limit interactions to individual households and maintain good hygiene.
  • Social interactions are limited to groups of 20 or fewer.
  • Residents are still encouraged to limit out-of-state travel and quarantine for 14 days when returning home.
  • Work remotely when possible.
  • High-risk people (over 65 and anyone with an underlying medical condition) should wear a face mask at all times when outside the home, leave home only when essential, limit visiting friends or family without urgent need, limit physical interactions with other high-risk individuals, except for members of your household, and limit attending gatherings of any number of people outside your household or residence. They are also encouraged not to visit hospitals, nursing homes or other residential care facilities.
  • Small groups of close family and friends who are not ill may attend family gatherings, including funerals, weddings and religious ceremonies if they have been following recommended social distancing and hygiene practices for at least two weeks.