Record editorial: Masks are working. Now we need a statewide mandate.
Masks are working.
That’s the takeaway from data gathered over the last month in Summit and Salt Lake counties, where face coverings in public have been required for more than a month.
In Summit County, new coronavirus case growth has fallen steadily following a worrying surge in late June, a drop that aligns with the implementation of the mask mandate and that officials have determined is “significantly greater” than the case decline seen statewide. A similar pattern has emerged in Salt Lake County.
The trends are not surprising given other research that shows masks slow the spread of the coronavirus. But it prompts a natural question: If the mandates have been successful here and in Salt Lake County, why is there still no statewide mask requirement?
So far, Gov. Gary Herbert has not provided a satisfactory answer, even as Utah early in the week remained one of 21 states the White House is classifying as being in the “red zone,” a designation meaning there have been 100 new daily cases per 100,000 residents in the past week.
Instead of enacting a statewide mandate, the governor continues to appeal to Utahns’ sense of responsibility, imploring them to do the right thing and mask up when they leave their homes.
Perhaps that would be a sufficient response if the issue of masks had not been politicized and if every Utahn understood that wearing one is neither an admission of weakness nor an affront on their personal liberty but rather an act of kindness and respect.
Unfortunately, the notion that enough Utahns will heed the guidance on masks without a mandate is fantasy. Pretending otherwise is unacceptable in the middle of the worst pandemic in a century, a health crisis that puts every person in the state at risk.
We need leadership and time is running out for Herbert to change course and provide it. Utahns who understand the importance of masks in the fight against COVID-19 should call on him each day to do so.
In the meantime, Summit County residents can take pride in the effectiveness of the strong actions officials here have taken, and in their own collective willingness to abide by the mandate.
The proof is in the data: Masks work. Keep wearing them.
We can only hope the governor soon wields his authority to make the rest of the state join us.
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