Countywide mask mandate slated to go into effect as coronavirus surges
Requirement comes amid the largest spike in cases since the pandemic began
Summit County officials on Thursday announced a countywide mask mandate in response to a surge in coronavirus cases that has dwarfed the largest spikes seen earlier in the pandemic.
The mandate is slated to go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday. The order requires people to wear masks inside public facilities, such as schools, grocery stores and retailers, or while waiting in line to enter an indoor space. There are limited exceptions, such as for people under 2 years old, those who have medical conditions that prevent mask-wearing and patrons eating or drinking at a restaurant.
“This was not an easy decision and certainly not an action we wanted to take at this stage of the pandemic,” said Phil Bondurant, the Summit County health director, in a press release. “I am especially concerned for our frontline workers, our children and staff in schools and the current strain on our healthcare system. Masks combined with vaccines are critical tools to help us weather this surge and protect our critical services.”
There has not been a community-wide mask mandate in place since April, when case counts were declining and the prospect of widespread vaccine availability offered hope that the worst of the pandemic was over. But the emergence of the highly transmissible omicron variant has sent case numbers skyrocketing and renewed worries about the coronavirus.
Summit County on Wednesday logged 244 cases, a new record and more than triple the single-day high of 79 prior to the current surge. There have been more than 79 cases nearly every day since Dec. 23, including several days that eclipsed 150 cases. The schools have been hit particularly hard, with Park City High School on Wednesday reporting 58 cases within the prior two weeks.
“Along with the health of our residents, workers and visitors, preserving and maintaining critical infrastructure services in our county is of the highest priority,” County Manager Tom Fisher said in the release. “As it stands, the omicron surge poses a significant threat to our ability to provide critical services, such as emergency response, snow removal, solid waste collection, medical services, and others. This health order helps protect those front-line workers and the important services they provide this community.”
Summit County officials anticipate that the coronavirus will continue to spread at a high rate for at least the next month, according to the health order, which also notes that there has been a significant demand for COVID-19 testing in recent weeks.
“Increased COVID-19 transmissions are expected for the next 30 to 45 days with the Omicron variant, risking stable continuation of essential services for all living in or visiting Summit County, and straining the local economy during a critical economic time of the year,” the order states.
The order is slated to expire Feb. 21.
The announcement of the mandate comes one day after the organizers of the Sundance Film Festival, scheduled later this month, canceled in-person events in Park City for the second straight year out of concern for the coronavirus. The cancellation is a significant blow to the Park City-area economy, which typically reaps tens of millions of dollars during the festival.
While the governor touted state initiatives, members of the public questioned what Cox is doing to help with issues such as the labor shortage and affordable housing, open space, water and education.
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