With Utah’s mask mandate ending on April 10, the Summit County Council on Wednesday considered whether to extend a local, limited mask order beyond that date.
Following a recommendation from County Health Director Rich Bullough, the council decided against an extension. But, the councilors did talk about supporting local businesses that voluntarily continue requiring masks.
Bullough told councilors that COVID-19 case numbers have been decreasing in Summit County and across the country.
He said two major reasons for that are the increasing numbers of vaccinations and citizens following basic precautions like wearing masks.
Bullough noted the county called for masking in the first place for two objectives—ensuring hospital capacity wouldn’t be maxed out; and protecting elderly, at-risk patients. He said those two goals have largely been accomplished.
A mask order after April 10 would also be more limited in scope due to the signing of House Bill 294. Deputy County Attorney Dave Thomas explained that the council could enact a local health order, which would require masks just in cases where 50 or more people gather without socially distancing.
However, Thomas reported that such a health order must be rescinded if three metrics are met: if the state’s 14-day case rate falls below 191 per 100,000 people, the seven-day average for ICU utilizations is less than 15 percent, or if over 1.6 million doses of vaccines have been allocated to the state.
Bullough said those metrics have been met or are expected to be met by mid-May.
One other exception is that public schools have the prerogative to set and continue their own health orders until July 1.
Meanwhile, Bullough said that in a recent Park City Chamber/Bureau survey, 68% of responding businesses favored extending a mask order; and 72% indicated that they would require masks regardless of what the state or county does.
Bullough said the county should use its resources to support businesses that continue requiring masks.
“Rather we would take the resources that we would utilize to both implement and manage that order, to support businesses, to help businesses message, to provide masks where needed for their employees if they wish to go down that road,” Bullough said. “We can help support signage. We can coordinate community activities, positive messages to try to make sure that not just the residents of Summit County and the people that live here, but also our visitors, understand that we need to protect each other.”
He said citizens should be civil. He urged them not to shame others for wearing a mask, or for not wearing one.
Bullough said there still indicators to watch. He said the current cases are being driven by young children, and the U.K. variant is appearing in those cases.
He said we’re not out of it yet.
“I think our contact tracers and case investigators right now are doing quite well with that,” Bullough said. “But who knows what happens in the future. So we still need to be responsible.”
Bullough said that the best way to get back to normal is to have a significant number of people vaccinated.