SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall signed an executive order on Wednesday requiring the public and city employees — vaccinated or not — to wear masks in city-owned buildings and facilities.
The executive order comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance and recommended that vaccinated individuals should resume wearing a mask when indoors in substantial or high transmission areas. The updates come after the delta variant of the coronavirus has been circulating quickly throughout the nation.
Utah public health officials reported over 800 new COVID-19 cases in a single day for the second time this month on Wednesday. Before July 21, the health department hadn't reported more than 800 cases in a single day since February. The University of Utah Health said in a release that the surge of COVID-19 cases among people who are unvaccinated with the wide circulation of highly contagious delta variant has led to a sharp increase in COVID-19 patients needing to be hospitalized at their facility.
"As a city, we've always looked to the CDC and our health experts to guide our actions against the spread of COVID-19, and today is no different. It's clear that cases are rising across the nation and right here in Utah. This measure we are taking is an important step in protecting everyone working or visiting a city facility," Mendenhall said in a release.
Today I signed an executive order requiring the public and City employees —vaccinated or not — to wear masks in City-owned buildings and facilities. We look to the CDC and health experts to guide our decisions & this move is in keeping with that commitmenthttps://t.co/czWwlrb9pq— Mayor Erin Mendenhall (@slcmayor) July 28, 2021
Mendenhall said that the order is similar to the previous rules in place before the state's "endgame" legislation lifted the citywide mask requirement. The order requires city employees to wear a mask inside city facilities, vehicles or when acting within the scope of city employment while indoors. Any visitors inside a city facility are required to wear a face mask.
The order allows individuals with specific medical conditions an exception.
Other exceptions to wearing a mask include:
- While actively eating or drinking, provided that the individual remains in place while eating or drinking.
- While alone or only with other members of the same household in an office, room, cubicle, vehicle or similar enclosure.
- When communicating as or with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing if the speaker wears a face shield or uses alternative protection such as a plexiglass barrier.
- When engaging in work authorized by the city where wearing a face mask would create a risk to the individual, as determined by government safety guidelines.
- When needed to confirm an identity.
- While outdoors and maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet from any individual from a different household.
- Children younger than 3 years old.
The order went into effect on Wednesday and will remain in effect until amended or rescinded, according to Mendenhall's office.
Also in line with CDC guidance, Utah courts have issued a mask mandate for courts located in a county that has been designated by the Utah Department of Health as a moderate or high transmission index count.
According to the Utah Judicial Council's Administrative Order, an unvaccinated court member recently spread COVID-19 unknowingly to an individual compelled to come to court proceedings and other court members. The council stated that due to the courts seeing an increase of people being compelled to come to court in person, with no way of assuring those they encounter are vaccinated, the court issued a mask mandate.
The court will supply a mask to individuals in those areas who do not have one while in the court building.
The mask mandate does not apply to courts that:
- Are located in a county that is designated by the Utah Department of Health as a low transmission index county.
- A witness while the witness is testifying, or to other individuals in a courtroom if the judge determines that the temporary removal of a mask is necessary for identification or other similar purposes.
- If court personnel are at their desk not dealing with the public and physically distanced from others.
- Court personnel who are actively eating or drinking and physically distanced from others.
Included in the updated CDC guidelines, the agency recommended "universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status." While teachers, staff, students and visitors within schools can be encouraged to wear masks, the Utah Legislature passed a measure in May that prohibited a mandate.
The University of Utah Health officials advised that as students get ready to go back to school, those who are 12 and older should schedule a vaccination appointment as soon as possible.
"Now is the time. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect you, your family, your friends, and our community," the release says.
A sentiment echoed by Dr. Angela Dunn, the former state epidemiologist who is now the head of the Salt Lake County Health Department early Wednesday in a series of tweets. Dunn added that wearing a mask helps to protect those who cannot get vaccinated yet or at all.
2/ IF most of our eligible population gets vaccinated, we will decrease spread and not need masks. Until then, we need to stop the spread with masks too. If we don't, the virus has the opportunity to keep mutating and getting stronger.— Dr. Angela Dunn (@DrAngelaCDunn) July 28, 2021
The list of CDC updated recommendations can be found here.