SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County on Thursday extended its mask health order to last through August. On the same day, the Salt Lake Chamber and over 130 businesses called on state leaders to make face masks mandatory throughout Utah.
The chamber’s statement, which was signed by Zions Bank, the University of Utah, Salt Lake County, Larry H. Miller Group and 134 others, noted the rising COVID-19 cases in Utah is concerning and called on leaders to require face coverings for areas in the yellow, orange and red phases across the Beehive State.
Salt Lake County, one of two counties in the state to implement a mandatory mask health order, now says its original order will be in effect through Aug. 20.
The order, which went into effect on June 27, requires residents to wear a covering over their nose and mouth in public anytime social distancing is not realistic or possible.
The health order originally expired on Friday.
Summit County is the only other area in the state where face coverings are mandatory — Gov. Gary Herbert approved both counties’ requests last week.
The majority of COVID-19 cases in the state are centered in Salt Lake County at 50.1%, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Utah County has 18.2% of cases, followed by Cache County with 6.4%.
Summit County is in 7th place for most cases at 2.2.%, behind Washington County’s 5.4%, Davis County’s 5.3%, and Weber County’s 4.4%
Herbert has asked Utahns repeatedly to do their part and wear face coverings — he told Utahns in June to “do better” about wearing masks in public.
“We hope that all Utahns understand the importance of wearing a mask, and will be diligent in their efforts to wear one,” Herbert wrote in a statement issued on June 12.
As of Thursday, Utah had 23,270 total confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 1,505 total hospitalizations and 176 total deaths from the disease.
State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn warned officials in a June memo the state was reaching a critical point after a surge in cases. She warned another shutdown might be necessary to slow the spread of the virus.
In response to the memo, Herbert said he had “no plans to shut down Utah’s economy.”
The governor’s office said it would review the recommendations with legislative leaders and Unified Command next week.
The Salt Lake Chamber’s full statement reads:
"As business and community leaders, we express our heightened concern over increasing COVID-19 infection rates and decreasing hospital treatment capacity. We are equally concerned with the potential impacts to the state’s emerging economic recovery. Public health and economic health are inseparably connected, not competing alternatives, and both are required to sustain healthy and economically viable families, businesses and communities.
"We recognize the business community has a role in achieving this balance between the health and economic imperatives. To that end, the Salt Lake Chamber, along with local chambers and industry associations, launched the statewide Stay Safe to Stay Open campaign to promote the wearing of face masks in business environments, as well as to support businesses in following the health and safety guidelines set forth by the Utah Department of Health.
"We believe in particular circumstances that private sector efforts must be coupled with reasonable government regulation, especially for the purpose of protecting personal health and the rights of others. We see this every day in commerce such as not smoking in restaurants, using seatbelts in cars, and wearing hardhats in construction areas. And it is in that spirit that we call upon state leaders to update health guidelines for the yellow, orange and red risk levels, to include the requirement to wear a mask in public places when social distancing is not feasible.
"The Salt Lake Chamber and corporate signatories also support the #MaskUpUtah public awareness campaign through the Utah Hospital Association as an important way to communicate to the public at large the purpose of wearing a face mask. Fewer messages are more important at this time than that wearing a mask is about respect and caring for others.
"Additionally, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development has received funding from the state legislature for a consumer confidence campaign. We believe a key element of this campaign should include consumer health and safety best practices. We are hopeful these campaigns directed at business, consumers and the public will make a difference in protecting the public and the economy.
"Seldom in business or in life is the most effective solution also the easiest, but in the fight against the coronavirus that is exactly what wearing a mask means for the health and well-being of lives and livelihoods. We are concerned that without taking this step now, damage will be done to individual health and community economic well-being in the near future, serious consequences that our families, communities and the state cannot afford. To move forward safely, our businesses would rather comply with the requirement to wear face masks appropriately than to have to close our doors. "
Contributing: Andrew Adams, KSL TV