COVID-19 policy updates: Businesses, universities adjust mask rules; Salt Lake Bees to bring back full ballpark capacity

(Carter Williams, KSL.com, File)



SALT LAKE CITY — Amid the new guidelines set last week by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more businesses and universities are dropping their mask requirements across Utah.

Smith's Food and Drug is dropping its mask policy for fully vaccinated customers and most employees, the chain announced Wednesday

The policy change will go into effect Thursday. Customers and most employees will be able to go into stores and other facilities if they have been fully vaccinated; unvaccinated employees and pharmacy employees will still be required to wear masks.

The announcement mirrors the new mask policy announced Wednesday by its parent company, Kroger. Officials for the grocery chain stated that the changes in the company policy are in response to the new guidelines.

Both Smith's and Kroger announced they would "implement enhanced cleaning and physical distancing across all facilities" and offer workers $100 in a one-time payment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which is something that can be administered at one of the stores' pharmacies.

"Every step of the way, our most urgent priority has been the health and safety of our associates and customers, and we have consistently leveraged expert guidance and associate and customer feedback to guide our decisions," said Dr. Marc Watkins, the chief medical officer for Kroger. "That focus continues today as we look ahead to a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Smith's joins other grocery chains in Utah, like Harmons, that also dropped mask policies for vaccinated customers following the CDC's recent guideline change.

Smith's Ballpark returns to full capacity, eases mask requirements

The Salt Lake Bees on Wednesday announced that they will return to full ballpark capacity beginning May 27 in their series against the Round Rock Express. Bees officials said masks will be encouraged but not required.

The announcement comes after the team opened its season May 6 with a crowd capacity of just 3,200. The ballpark's capacity is a little more than 14,500. The team also required masks for the first homestand of the season.

The stadium will continue its no-cash policy. That means fans must buy tickets online and use credit, debit or mobile payments at concession stands. Fans who prefer to use cash can use a cash-to-prepaid kiosk at the ballpark.

The reduction in crowd size was one of many COVID-19-related changes at Smith's Ballpark to begin the season. Organizations couldn't bring anyone else onto the field, which meant reserve players began serving as batboys and the Bees couldn't have their uber-popular produce race in the fourth inning of games.

They also had to ditch ceremonial pregame first pitches. In fact, they aired a prerecorded video of Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall throwing out the first pitch for the season's opening night.

A team spokesperson told KSL.com that those rules will remain in place on May 27, but some of the previous traditions "will gradually start to return." The team's final home game this season is scheduled for Sept. 14.

The announcement from the team comes a few days after the Utah Jazz announced they would bump up fan capacity at Vivint Arena from 6,700 fans to 13,000 ahead of the NBA Playoffs.

Real Salt Lake also recently upped its attendance to 10,000 fans, or close to half-capacity of Rio Tinto Stadium. The club announced last week that it would no longer require masks for fans attending games.

Masks no longer required at U., BYU starting May 24; UVU drops mandate

The University of Utah announced a change Wednesday, saying that because of the updated guidelines and recent state legislation it would no longer require maks in its facilities starting May 24. University communications officials noted that masks would continue to be required inside University of Utah Health facilities. All job-related personal protective equipment safety requirements will still be enforced for worker safety.

Weekly coronavirus testing and vaccination clinics will still be provided on campus throughout the summer. In a press release, officials encouraged the campus community to be vaccinated by scheduling a vaccination appointment online or calling the U.'s vaccination hotline at 801-213-2874 (and press option 2) for assistance in finding and scheduling a vaccination appointment.

According to the University of Utah, a recent survey of faculty and students showed that more than 90% of respondents have been vaccinated or plan to be vaccinated in the coming weeks.

Despite vaccination rates, the university emphasized the effectiveness wearing a mask has in preventing infection for both unvaccinated and vaccinated people. The university asked everyone on campus to be respectful of people's personal decisions on whether to wear a mask or not and to continue to foster a sense of community.

Brigham Young University also adjusted its protocols starting May 24. Masks are encouraged for those who are not vaccinated and when social distancing is not possible, said BYU.

Masks are also required in these areas and circumstances:

  • In classrooms through spring term (if trends continue, masks will not be required during summer term)
  • At Studio 1030 for both employees and patrons
  • At the BYU Student Health Center for both employees and patrons
  • For BYU Dining Services employees as directed by supervisors and other areas where required or directed

Utah Valley University also lifted mask requirements but reminded the campus community that Utah County is designated by the state as an area of moderate-level transmission.

UVU said that masks would be recommended in its facilities but are no longer required. The university also reserved the right to require masks and social distancing at large gatherings, at specific events and in work environments.

Like the University of Utah, Utah Valley University officials reminded the campus community that the school was inclusive and asked that people's personal decisions regarding masks be met with respect and compassion.

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