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Summit Council Member Says Put Focus On Vaccinations, Masks, To Be Ready For Ski Season

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With Summit County now classified as High Transmission for COVID-19, Summit County Council Chair Glenn Wright says that employers, including the county, will continue encouraging vaccinations and the use of masks.

For now, Wright says he favors using motivation rather than mandates.    

Wright told KPCW the community’s objective should be to get back to a Low Transmission status before the start of the ski season.

But he said every business must make its own decision on health and safety protocols.      

”Employers have the absolute right to mandate vaccinations for their businesses.   That may be difficult in a lot of places.”

Wright said that incentives can be used.   For instance, Delta Airlines has announced it will hike insurance premiums for unvaccinated employees.      

“If health insurance is an important issue,   Delta Airlines has a very stiff motivation towards getting vaccination.  The county is actually investigating that with our health insurance carrier.   We would prefer not to go to a mandate for our county employees, but we’re definitely investigating the health insurance aspect as a motivation factor, and maybe even bonuses for new vaccinations.”

Also on the national front, federal legislation now allows paid leave for workers to receive a COVID vaccine.

And public employers in Utah can now require staffers to get the Pfizer vaccine, since it has been fully approved by the FDA.

KPCW asked Wright if the county will lead the way, and get all its staffers vaxxed.  He said he hopes so.

Wright said he doesn’t know what percentage of Summit County employees are vaccinated, but assumes the level is similar to the overall county vaccination rates.   Last month, the Health Department reported that of the county’s population over 25 years old, 80 percent have received at least one shot.

Would the county require indoor masks in public buildings?     Wright said that under state law, he doesn’t think the mandate can apply to visitors.     For staffers, he said perhaps the county could offer that vaccinated employees don’t have to mask up.

Locally, the recent COVID surge has begun impacting events and the economy. This week, the Park City Song Summit, which would have brought thousands of visitors to town for four days of live music and workshops, was canceled.    The Park City Community Foundation reports it is requiring any employee who works in the office to be vaccinated.    And staffers are wearing masks due to CDC guidelines for wearing masks indoors. 

Also,  the Park City Council has returned to all-virtual meetings for the foreseeable future.

Wright said county officials will discuss going back entirely to Zoom.   But he said not all their meetings draw crowds.   The council’s session on Wednesday only attracted two members of the public.    

“One of the things we may consider doing, we don’t have many of our meetings that are very highly attended, other than when we have controversial public hearings and public comment.    So one thing we might do is remove a lot of the seats from the auditorium and spread people out and limit attendance where we think we’re gonna have a high flow of public hearing comments or public comment, and encourage people to go on Zoom.  Those are all things we have to consider.  I would prefer to stay live for our council meetings if at all possible.”

Meanwhile, there has been fierce debate over masks in schools—in particular, the county’s August 25th order that face coverings would be required if an elementary school hit a two percent 14-day positivity rate.

Some speakers at a recent hearing called for more—a mask mandate for K through 12.    Wright said that decision would be up to the health director.      

“His current thinking on it is that the trigger is encouraging students and parents to tell their kids to wear masks.  And we seem to be getting pretty good compliance within the schools at this point.  But we’re gonna be evaluating that on a week-to-week basis.  The other options in front of us is, go to a complete mask mandate again, or perhaps something like a vaccine or mask mandate.   Those are all options that are in front of us.  But right now the only decision that council can make on this is to rescind the order, or at the end of 30 days, extend it.   And I will say we are not going to rescind the order, and we are likely to extend it until we get to a much better place in the county.”

Wright said the council has heard a lot of public comment.    He said he’s doubtful that another forum will change anyone’s mind.   

“We have a vocal minority that is against vaccinations and masks.  We just disagree with em.  They’re welcome to their opinion.  As former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said once, ‘Everyone’s welcome to their opinion, but not their own facts.’  We just have complete disagreement with the people who are continually coming to us and saying, ‘Vaccines and masks are not important for this battle against COVID.’”

Summit County Council Member Glenn Wright, who said the only way to defeat COVID is to get everybody vaccinated.

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