Summit County officials say they’re excited that the community has stepped up and has complied with their Mandatory mask order.
The mask order went into effect on June 27. Summit County Health Director Bullough said that almost overnight the county saw widespread compliance, even with businesses where customers had complained for months that masks were not being worn.
Councilor Kim Carson said the county’s shutdown earlier this spring had been effective in slowing the growth of the virus.
Now, she made the case for masks, saying it’s not a demanding requirement.
“I don’t feel like that is infringing on someone’s personal rights,” Carson said. “I mean, it’s something you do to protect your family; to protect your neighbors. People say, “Well, those at risk should be the ones to stay home and just protect themselves.” But yet if others are coming and going from their home, everybody can’t completely isolate themselves. And they also need to obtain basic services, like food. And they may need to go to the doctor’s office. So they can wear a mask. But they’re not really protected unless everyone else is wearing a mask too.”
In a Conversation With Council last week, Bullough said the county decided on the order after nine consecutive days of rising cases.
Also, cases were surging in surrounding counties, he said, while Utah as a whole went from being ranked as one of the five best states for handling the pandemic to one of the five worst.
Bullough said one important vector was the number of travel-related cases they were seeing.
“And then we had community spread,” he said. “And there was a long period of time where we didn’t have a single travel-related case. That trend continued up until the first week of May. After the first week of May, we began to see travel-related cases increase. It increased, in fact, to just over 15 percent. And that’s a concerning trend, because it means—a travel-related case means that someone has come here sick, and has been diagnosed here, or somebody from Summit County has traveled somewhere and been exposed and come back.”
He advised taking one other precaution.
Even if you’re socially distancing and wearing a mask at a gathering, you have to be mindful of the amount of time that you’re in proximity to a person.
“The time that you are in close proximity to any single individual puts you at risk,” he said. “If you’re in a group, keep moving. Say hi, bump your elbow, don’t shake hands, move on. That time of exposure is a critical component. That’s a hard thing to keep in mind. But in the Health Department, we’ve shortened our meetings. When somebody comes into the office, we make sure we’ve got our masks on and we limit our interaction, the time of our interaction, below 15 minutes and we’re very cognizant of it.”
On a related issue, some East Side residents have asked why the mask order applies to their area, suggesting that COVID-19 isn’t a problem there.
But Bullough said that cases have indeed appeared on the East Side and are increasing. And precautions are necessary because visitors from elsewhere in the county, the state or the country are traveling through the area.
As an example, he talked about the Kamas Food Town—which, he added, has worked well with the county.
“But people are passing through there on the way to the Uintas and they’re stopping to get their groceries and get their ice and their drinks and et cetera,” he said. “And it makes sense that you would want the residents, the local people of Kamas, to be protected from, at least as much as possible, from those visitors. Because Kamas has enormously limited resources. That’s their grocery store. The residents are going there to shop. The visitors are going there to shop.”
Finally, Bullough said he’s been talking to the county’s three school districts about their possible plans to reopen.
“The three districts have slightly different plans,” he said. “And people should know, those plans are in part based on the guidelines. But they’re also based in part on surveys that the districts have done. What do the parents want to see and what do the teachers and other faculty want to see and how is this is going to work in their districts.”