Masks will still be required in Salt Lake County community centers and other facilities after the statewide mask mandate ends Saturday, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson announced Tuesday, urging Utahns to stick with face coverings to protect themselves and others against COVID-19.
“Things are looking up for us with our COVID cases. Spring is here. Business is open. But we need to continue to wear masks,” the mayor said at a news conference held at the Millcreek Community Center.
She noted it’s up to the Salt Lake County Council to determine whether there should continue to be a mask mandate for everyone in the county once the statewide mask mandate ends on Saturday.
Gary Edwards, executive director of the county’s health department, is expected to make a recommendation to the County Council on Wednesday about whether to impose a mask mandate once the statewide order expires. The council has a meeting scheduled on the issue Friday morning.
Other counties throughout the state are also deciding what to do once a new law lifts the statewide mask mandate put in place last November by then-Gov. Gary Herbert. The new law also ends any restrictions put in place into slow the spread of the virus no later than July 1.
The end date could come as soon as the state has received 1.63 million first doses of vaccines, enough for about 70% of the population, as long as case counts and hospitalization rates remain low. State health officials have said that could be by mid-May. Only K-12 mask requirements for students would remain, through June.
Wilson said mask wearing should be decided at the state level. But the Utah Legislature had wanted to end the statewide mask mandate even sooner, agreeing on the April 10 date after negotiations with Gov. Spencer Cox, who had hoped to keep it until the vaccine dose threshold was reached.
Regardless of what county officials end up doing when it comes to a mask mandate, the mayor is asking people keep their faces covered while in the state’s most populous county. She said only about a third of county residents have immunity against the virus, either through contracting it or getting fully vaccinated.
“It’s important we wear face coverings when social distancing is not possible, for obvious reasons. We’ve all been at this for a while. We know that masks prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Wilson said, adding that the immunity level “is not of a threshold for us to be safe.”
Someone is considered fully vaccinated at least two weeks after getting the final dose of a vaccine.
The mayor also said that as a mother, she is worried for children who cannot yet be vaccinated. Cox recently opened up eligibility for the vaccine to all Utahns 16 and older, but Wilson said appointments for shots through the county are booked until May at the earliest.
Businesses have the option to require masks beyond April 10 — something Wilson encouraged. Many businesses, including Harmon’s and other grocery store chains and retail stores, have already announced they will keep the mandate beyond Saturday.
The mayor’s announcement comes as Utah has now administered more than 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Another 300 new coronavirus cases and four additional deaths from the virus in the state were reported Tuesday by the Utah Department of Health.
With a daily increase of 28,314 COVID-19 vaccine shots given in Utah, the total number of vaccine doses reached 1,526,353. There are now 579,627 Utahns fully vaccinated after having either received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single dose required for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Utah has had 387,814 positive coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic more than a year ago.
The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 387 per day. The rolling seven-day average for percent positivity of tests is 3.4% when all results are included, and 7.1% when multiple tests by an individual in the past 90 days are excluded. An additional 4,018 Utahns were tested since Monday, and a total of 10,662 tests for the virus were administered in the past day.
Currently, 130 people are hospitalized in Utah with COVID-19, and total hospitalizations in the state have reached 15,656. Utah’s death toll is now at 2,137 with the four additional deaths reported Tuesday. They are:
- A Salt Lake County woman, between the ages of 45 and 64, hospitalized at time of death.
- A Tooele County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
- A Utah County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
- A Weber County man, 45-64, hospitalized.