SALT LAKE CITY – As the number of cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to rise, mask warrants are back in a few cities in the western United States.
In Los Angeles and Las Vegas, residents and visitors should wear a mask for indoor events, even if they are vaccinated, to slow the transmission of the delta variant.
But is it likely to return to Utah, or is it even possible?
“I think going back to a mask mandate, or going back to restrictions, is the opposite direction to where we need to go right now,” said Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield.
He told KSL-TV that Utah lawmakers are highly unlikely to ever bring back a mask warrant, even as new cases increase. Ultimately, they have the authority over emergency health orders.
“It comes down to a personal choice,” said Ray. “It’s not the government’s role to do that, especially with the vaccine. You educate people about the benefits of the vaccine. If you want to get vaccinated, you get vaccinated. If you don’t, then you take the risk of coming down with COVID. “
Utah’s COVID-19 emergency orders ended five months ago and the state legislature further restricted how they could be implemented.
So if a city or county in Utah wanted to bring back a mask warrant, could they do so?
“Local Utah health departments have the power to issue mask warrants if they have the support of their elected officials in their jurisdiction,” said Nicholas Rupp, spokesperson for the Salt County Department of Health. Lake.
A county health department executive can issue a new emergency health declaration as a mask warrant as long as local officials, like the mayor and commission, are in favor.
It is not the government’s role to do that, especially with the vaccine. You educate people about the benefits of the vaccine. If you want to get vaccinated, you get vaccinated. If you don’t, then you run the risk of falling with COVID.
-Representative. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield
But according to Evan Vickers, co-sponsor of Senate Bill 195, the legislature can end any order or restriction issued by a health department. So the legislature has that authority in Utah.
Rupp said they would never remove this mask warrant option, but the county health department is currently focusing on vaccine distribution as the most effective tool to fight the pandemic.
“Right now, while we have a vaccine that is still very effective against all of the circulating variants, we are more likely to focus our efforts on promoting this more effective intervention,” Rupp said.
He said masks were a very effective tool in 2020 when there was no vaccine, but at this time Salt Lake County is not likely to re-implement a mask mandate.
“We will focus on vaccination for now, as long as the vaccines continue to be as effective against the variants,” Rupp said.