Summit County will not implement a new mask order when the state mandate expires April 10
Officials warn pandemic isn’t over, ask residents to continue to wear masks
Summit County’s residents and visitors will no longer be required to wear masks when the state mask mandate expires April 10, after the County Council indicated Wednesday it would not seek to impose its own mandate.
Local officials said it remains crucial to wear masks to end the pandemic, but indicated the strictures of the new legislation would limit the duration and efficacy of any mask mandate the council imposed.
Businesses, however, retain the ability to require masks in their establishments, and an overwhelming majority of respondents to a recent Park City Chamber/Bureau survey indicated they would do so.
County officials asked people to continue wearing masks and encouraged business owners to require them.
If businesses choose to do so after April 10, it will be without the government mandate that some business owners have said makes it easier to ask individuals to wear a mask.
Schools must still require masks under a Utah Department of Health order that expires June 15.
The County Council meeting was punctuated by the first dedicated session of public input on the mask mandate. Councilors cut off commenters multiple times, though the tone remained mostly civil. About a dozen of the speakers vigorously opposed the government’s imposition of a mask mandate while two speakers supported the use of masks.
It was the first extended airing in a formal setting of oppositional viewpoints to the county’s public health orders. The comments included accusations of government overreach, vaccine opposition and descriptions of what the speakers said were the mental and physical effects of requiring children to wear masks.
County officials have said internal deliberations have been split about extending a mask mandate beyond April 10, and Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough ultimately recommended against imposing a new mandate while simultaneously stressing the importance of wearing a mask.
“It would not offer supportive protections that many businesses have sought,” he said, explaining his recommendation.
He said that the original intentions of the mandate had largely been met as measured by hospital utilization and the decline in the number of new cases. He added that any mandate would likely last only until early May, when the county is projected to hit the metrics included in the newly passed state law that would automatically lift the county’s order.
Furthermore, the Summit County attorney who has drafted most of the county’s public health orders during the past year said the state legislation would allow for a mask mandate that only applies to gatherings of more than 50 people who are not able to socially distance.
County Councilors Doug Clyde, Malena Stevens and Glenn Wright said they supported Bullough’s recommendation.
The state’s mask mandate is ending April 10 because of H.B. 294, the so-called “pandemic endgame” bill that essentially set a finishing date for many of the state’s pandemic-related restrictions.
Bullough, however, warned that the pandemic wasn’t finished locally. He told the council the state of COVID in Summit County included many positive factors, but announced that new cases, while fewer in number, were primarily being found in young children, a new development.
He indicated that was a result of a mutant form of COVID-19 known as the U.K. variant, which has been found in Summit County. He added that public health officials had seen spread among children.
Opponents of the county’s pandemic response criticized Bullough several times during the public comment portion of the meeting, with Clyde at one point interrupting a speaker to say the council “will not put up with character assassination” of county employees.
Wright, who was running the meeting, held closer to the three-minute time limit for speakers than is generally done during the county’s public hearings. He attempted at times to combat what he called misinformation, but did not refute each claim.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to indicate that a statewide mask mandate will remain in place in schools until June 15.
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Jenn Armstrong-Solomon provides the services of her trauma-sensitive yoga nonprofit, Tall Mountain Wellness, free of charge to groups like the Summit County Drug Court and the county jail.