SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – New mask mandates are another sign that the pandemic is far from over. Masks are now required in Salt Lake City facilities following an executive order from Mayor Erin Mendenhall.
This comes as Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant has also issued an order that will require masks in all courts in moderate or high transmission counties. This order takes effect on Friday, July 30.
Both mandates are in response to the CDC’s decision to reverse course on some masking guidance on Tuesday. The CDC recommended that everyone should wear a mask indoors regardless of if they’re vaccinated or not. This applies to parts of the country that are seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, including Utah.
“We need to do this to protect ourselves and our families and this makes sense,” Mayor Mendenhall said.
As the state continues to see a sharp increase of the Delta variant she issued an order that will require anyone who is inside a facility owned and operated by the city to wear a mask.
“As a city we’ve always looked to the CDC and our health experts to guide our actions against the spread of COVID-19 and today is no different,” Mayor Mendenhall said.
She issued a similar order back in May which extended the mask mandate in city facilities despite Governor Spencer Cox signing the ‘endgame bill’ which lifted the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.
“We hope that this will help not just protect our employees and the public…but inspire people to get in and get those vaccines so that we don’t end up in another shut down the way we did last year,” Mayor Mendenhall said.
She along with many healthcare workers agree with the CDC’s decision to change its guidance surrounding masks.
“It is a relief to us. Many of us in the healthcare field never felt comfortable going into crowded spaces without wearing a mask,” Chief Medical Operations Officer with University of Utah Health Dr. Russell Vinik said.
Dr. Vinik told ABC4 the CDC is following through with its promise to update its recommendations based on the data.
“Initially when the vaccines were studied, people were maintaining a lot of physical distance, mask wearing and that has changed,” Dr. Vinik said.
He said the COVID-19 vaccines aren’t as effective as they were when they were first studied because the Delta variant is more transmissible, and people have more opportunities to be exposed. Even still, he said the best way to protect yourself and end this pandemic is to get vaccinated.
“85% efficacy is still great If we compare it to a flu shot, which most of us do every year, that usually runs in the 60 percent efficacy…so these COVID-19 vaccines are still terrific vaccines and are very effective,” Dr. Vinik said.
While some vaccinated people infected with a Delta variant may be contagious and spread the virus to others, the majority of the people ending up in the hospital with COVID are unvaccinated.
“We need people to understand if you choose not to be vaccinated right now, your risk is very very high because of this variant. And the best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated and if you can’t do that or if you don’t want to do that…wear a mask,” Utah Department of Health Public Information Officer Jenny Johnson said.