Salt Lake County Council declines to overturn mask mandate

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The proposal to overturn Salt Lake County’s mask mandate failed during a Salt Lake County Council meeting on Thursday.

“I understand masks are highly politicized and no one likes to wear them. I know masking in schools is not ideal. I get that people bristle when government tells them what to do. But we’ve asked nicely, we have pleaded and begged, and we need your help,” said Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, a Republican, before voting to uphold the mandate.

With the three Democrats on the council — as well as two Republicans — voting against overturning the order, it failed 5-3.

Dr. Angela Dunn, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, ordered mask-wearing in public for 30 days on Friday, Jan. 8, as Utah and the county continued to break daily COVID-19 case records and hospital officials joined together to plead for help controlling the virus.

High case rates and record hospitalization numbers continued this week as the state for the first time surpassed 10,000 new cases on Wednesday and confirmed a record 608 current hospitalizations due to COVID-19. On Thursday, Utah smashed its daily record yet again as health officials reported 12,990 new cases.

Winder Newton joined Thursday’s meeting remotely and announced that “my family members have had COVID, and now it’s my turn.”

She said she appreciated hearing from numerous residents who have contacted her, and her decision not to overturn the temporary mandate is “based on data” as the virus “hits hard for a few weeks and then subsides.”

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Winder Newton said she’s spoken with business owners, school districts and hospitals to understand what’s happening to their workforce.

“Our community is in a crisis which we’ve never seen before. I know in my lifetime we’ve never had the threat of having such a large percentage of the population out of work at the same time because of an illness,” she said.

“And our hospitals, do you think you’re tired of the pandemic? Well, our health care workers have been in the thick of this for almost two years now. They’ve already been picking up extra shifts, longer days, and getting fewer breaks. They are exhausted, and they feel like their government leaders and the public have abandoned them,” Winder Newton added.

In-party tension over mandate

Earlier this week, County Council Chairwoman Laurie Stringham, a Republican, said she would not call for a vote to potentially overturn the mandate. But Republican Councilman Dave Alvord on Tuesday successfully pressed the GOP-controlled council to take a vote and Thursday’s meeting was ultimately scheduled.

During Tuesday’s council session, dozens of residents showed up in person to speak against the mask order — despite its exclusion from the meeting agenda. Some also spoke in support of masks as they joined the meeting virtually. Thursday’s emergency meeting lasted under 30 minutes and did not include a public comment session.

Stringham — who became the deciding vote not to overturn the order — said she’s looked at …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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