The Summit County Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve amendments for the county’s mandatory mask order.
Among the changes to the order are a requirement for children ages 2 to 12 to wear face coverings and an appeal process for individuals and businesses who can't comply with the order as written or can mitigate virus spread without them.
County Health Director Rich Bullough said the goal is to keep businesses open and let citizens carry on some semblance of normal life — albeit with a mask.
Bullough and County Manager Tom Fisher said that since the mask order was approved by Gov. Herbert last Friday, they’ve seen a good level of compliance with the mandate.
But Bullough said they felt that they had to react to a worrisome trend of increasing cases in Summit County.
“The intent of the order was really preemptive,” Bullough said. “We’re surrounded by communities that have surging cases. In Summit County, our cases still look fairly good. But importantly, at the time that we issued this order, there were several key indicators that were going the wrong direction. And those included the R-nought (the value written out as R0), which again is the estimated number of individuals that contract the disease from a single infected individual. New cases—we had a day-over-day increase in cases.
“I think, very importantly, we had a significant increase, from zero percent to 13 percent and then to 15 percent of our cases coming from travel-related cases.”
He said “travel cases” include visitors who bring in the infection, or locals who have traveled outside the county and come back infected.
Deputy County Attorney Dave Thomas said that, among the changes to the mask order they will clarify that face shields can be worn by residents in addition to face coverings.
The order says that children should wear masks with the assistance and supervision of adults, when they are indoors or in public spaces. Thomas said youngsters don’t have to wear the masks during sleep periods in school or at daycare.
The amended order also states that that someone doesn’t have to wear a mask if they are the only person at their place of work. For anyone who can’t fulfill the requirements of the order, appeals can be made to the Board of Health.
“You have to show the Board of Health and the Health Department; if you’re not going to wear face coverings or face shields, you have to show them what other effective mitigation you’re going to do in place of that,” Thomas said. “You have to convince the Health Department and the Board of Health that, in fact, that mitigation would be in the end just as effective as a face covering or face shield. So that’s one area you could appeal. The second is a circumstance where you would have to show that on balance, the overall health risks associated with wearing the face covering is going to be greater than not wearing the face covering, considering the activity that you’re doing.”
The amendment to the order took effect at midnight on Wednesday.
County Council Chairman Doug Clyde said he’s been hearing residents with concerns about the order for the past week.
“They felt it was an infringement on their constitutional rights,” Clyde said. “And, of course, we are a nation that was founded on a high degree of personal responsibility and personal rights, not the least of which is the right to express yourself, which many of our constituents did very well over the last week. But it is the nature of government to curtail those rights when it is essential for the purpose of maintaining health, safety and welfare.”
Clyde said that government has the right and the responsibility to act because of a major crisis affecting not only public health, but the economy.
“People out there should realize that masks are essentially the last item in the bag,” he said. “We’re at the bottom of the sack when it comes to items that we can implement that are going to improve public health, safety; and still try and open our economy.”
Councilor Chris Robinson said that masks and social distancing are still needed to deal with a problem that isn’t going away.
“I believe that we need to get used to living with this virus,” Robinson said. “And I don’t mean by “living” I mean hunkered down in a bomb shelter, I mean out doing things, living with the virus. And we have this time before our winter season to do some experimentation which we’ve been doing. So far the experiments have shown that when we lessen up, we get a lot more cases. You can argue that we don’t have runaway cases in this county. But we are adjacent to a lot of areas that do. And we have a very ambulant work force and visitation and populace that are coming and going.”
Councilor Glenn Wright said that the bottom line is this: You need to wear a mask to respect your fellow citizens.
“Someone who walks into an establishment and blatantly violates this order without a mask is essentially giving the single-finger salute to people in that building,” he said. “I don’t have a whole lot of respect for that person.”