Utah Governor Gary Herbert issued an executive order on Wednesday requiring masks at all state-run facilities while resisting calls for a statewide mask order.
Expressing concern about the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Utah, Herbert said most of the state will remain at the yellow - or low risk - level for at least another two weeks and masks must be worn at all state buildings.
“I’m announcing that we will be issuing an executive order that will require mask wearing in all state facilities under the purview of the executive office, and this will include state higher education facilities and our DABC outlets,” Herbert said.
Herbert resisted calls for a statewide mask order and insisted personal responsibility become the driving force for Utahns when it comes to masks, hygiene, and social distancing.
The executive order comes after a June 19 memo to state and local health officials by state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn. The memo urged immediate action in order to slow the spread of the virus and warned that a complete shutdown of the state could be necessary if current trends continue.
Dunn addressed the memo herself on Wednesday, insisting the language only reflected her point of view as a public health official and was not intended to force any action by the state.
“My intention in the memo was not to say that we should shut down, no one wants that,” Dunn said. “My intention was to provide guidance on how we can continue to move the dial in the right direction at the right time.”
After Dunn’s memo was released, Salt Lake County filed an official request with the Governor’s office to mandate mask-wearing in the county. Governor Herbert says that he and his team will meet on Thursday to review Salt Lake County’s request and it will be granted if the data shows it is warranted.
“There is a process that we have in place,” Herbert said “That process is for local government leaders, if they have a desire to make some sort of adjustment to the current rules, regulations, and classifications we have in this pandemic, that they work with their local health departments and work with our state health department to make that request. If the data shows it, we’ve said we will, in fact, grant the request.”
If additional counties want to require masks in public, they will have to apply for approval with the Governor’s office before any measures can be put in place. On Tuesday, Summit County Council member Glenn Wright said a mask requirement is something he thinks the county would like to pursue.