Salt Lake County mayor to Utah governor: State buildings not exempt from mask order

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson discusses schoolchildren and masks.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson discusses schoolchildren and masks at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City on Aug. 10, 2021. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

A week away from 2022 session, mask wearing inconsistent at Utah Capitol despite county order

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson is pushing back against Gov. Spencer Cox after the governor deemed masks optional in state government buildings despite the countywide mask order issued Friday.

“I have learned that Gov. Cox has directed that with limited exceptions the mask requirement established by Salt Lake County will not apply to state buildings and the employees and visitors to those buildings,” Wilson said Monday in a prepared statement.

“While I appreciate the governor’s authority on many levels, he does not have the authority to exempt state buildings and employees from the Salt Lake County mask requirement and is defying a public health order of constraint,” the Democratic mayor said.

Cox, a Republican, on Monday did not immediately return a request for comment through his spokeswoman.

Dr. Angela Dunn, head of the Salt Lake County Health Department, issued the 30-day public health order on Friday. It requires everyone over 2 years old in the county, regardless of vaccination status or past COVID-19 infection, to wear “well-fitting masks” indoors or if standing in line in public. It took effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

“With omicron cases threatening our community not only is this a blatant disregard for the law by our state’s chief elected officer, but a disregard for the health of our community and local authority,” Wilson said. “I would expect the governor to set an example for us all by following the law during this challenging time.”

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According to an email circulated by the Utah Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday, the governor issued “statewide direction and guidance” to all state departments that masks would not be required in state buildings.

“While mask wearing is supported if desired, state-owned facilities will not require employees or visitors to wear a mask in our buildings,” the email stated. “Exceptions are state-operated 24-7 congregate care facilities that have existing mask requirements, the UDOH health clinic, and the UDOH on-site structures for COVID-19 testing.”

The email also stated that the “best tool against COVID-19 continues to be vaccinations and boosters.”

“We continue to support voluntary mask wearing, getting tested, and staying home when sick. High-quality masks were delivered to all UDOH/DHS buildings last week. If you would like a mask, please ask your building’s administrative support or employee support contact,” the email stated.

Wilson pointed to SB195, legislation approved by the Utah Legislature that restricts the power of local governments to enact coronavirus-related requirements including mask mandates. The law, however, created a process that health orders of “constraint,” such as mask orders, can be issued by a local health department.

“Those orders can be terminated by the local chief executive officer within 72 hours of issuance, or they …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News

      

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