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Breaking news: Summit County set to reinstate its mask mandate Friday, Jan 7 at 12:01 a.m.

A 45-day mask mandate is expected to begin tomorrow throughout Summit County.
A 45-day mask mandate is expected to begin tomorrow throughout Summit County.

KPCW learned Thursday morning that amid an unprecedented surge in COVID cases and strained hospitals both locally and statewide, the Summit County Health Department will reinstate its mask mandate for 45 days beginning Friday Jan 7.

UPDATED: Summit County Health Department confirms return of mask mandate starting Friday. According to a statement issued Thursday afternoon, "Beginning January 7, 2022, all individuals living within or visiting Summit County, Utah, regardless of vaccination status, must wear face-coverings while inside public indoor facilities or waiting in lines. Public Health Order 2022-01 was enacted by Summit County Manager Tom Fisher and Summit County Health Officer Dr. Phil Bondurant in response to the record-breaking surge of the Omicron COVID-19 variant both in Summit County and across the state. This Order begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, January 7, 2022 and is currently in effect until 5 p.m. on February 21, 2022." 

The full statement, which outlines exemptions, is attached at the end of this report.

The Summit County Health Department initially declined to confirm reports Thursday morning of a mask mandate reinstatement, but multiple sources in schools and the community did so, as coaches spread news of canceled sports and one scheduled public event after another was canceled this week.

The surging case numbers, which state health experts said were at least 90% the highly contagious omicron variant, have broken records daily within schools, the county and the state.

In Park City, there were 58 active COVID cases in the high school and 25 in the junior high school Thursday morning. Hospitals all over Utah announced major impacts on caregivers and communities as the virus's latest variant sweeps through Utah at a record pace.

The health department is expected to make a statement about policy changes and new restrictions later today, and the mandate is expected to be implemented county-wide, not just in schools.

The health department, working in conjunction with the county, has the authority to mandate masks - and impose other restrictions such as limits on gatherings - under an emergency heath order in place through June.

This is a developing story and KPCW will provide updates as more information becomes available.

Full statement from Summit County Health Department:

Summit County implements face-covering order in response to Omicron surge  

Summit County, Utah (January 6, 2022) — Beginning January 7, 2022, all individuals living within or visiting Summit County, Utah, regardless of vaccination status, must wear face-coverings while inside public indoor facilities or waiting in lines. Public Health Order 2022-01 was enacted by Summit County Manager Tom Fisher and Summit County Health Officer Dr. Phil Bondurant in response to the record-breaking surge of the Omicron COVID-19 variant both in Summit County and across the state. This Order begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, January 7, 2022 and is currently in effect until 5 p.m. on February 21, 2022.  

“This was not an easy decision and certainly not an action we wanted to take at this stage of the pandemic,” Dr. Bondurant said. “I am especially concerned for our frontline workers, our children and staff in schools and the current strain on our healthcare system. Masks combined with vaccines are critical tools to help us weather this surge and protect our critical services.”  

Exemptions include:  

  • Individuals under two years of age, those with medical conditions, impairments, or disabilities that prevent wearing a face-covering.  
  • Individuals engaging in work where they are alone in an indoor establishment or facility, individuals for whom wearing a face-covering would create a risk to the individual related to their work as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.  
  • Individuals seated at a restaurant or other food/beverage establishment while they are eating or drinking.  
  • The complete Order and a full list of exemptions can be found at https://bit.ly/2022-01.  

“Along with the health of our residents, workers and visitors, preserving and maintaining critical infrastructure services in our county is of the highest priority,” County Manager Tom Fisher said. “As it stands, the omicron surge poses a significant threat to our ability to provide critical services, such as emergency response, snow removal, solid waste collection, medical services, and others. This health order helps protect those front-line workers and the important services they provide this community."  

Violations of the Order are punishable as infractions; however, the purpose of the Order is to protect individuals’ health and not to hold them criminally liable. Discretion will be used in the citing and prosecution of violations of the Order. Educating and supplying a mask to those in violation will be a priority of enforcement.  

Updated: January 6, 2022 at 1:24 PM MST
Updated at 1:24 p.m. to include statement from Summit County Health Department