SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Utah, local mayors are pushing for Governor Gary Herbert to make wearing a mask mandatory to help slow the spread of the virus.
On Tuesday, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson sent a letter to Herbert asking for permission to enact a face covering requirement for Utah’s most populous county.
“We’ve seen almost a 50-percent increase in cases since June 1,” Mayor Wilson told ABC4’s Brittany Johnson.
Wilson, who tweeted that her letter was backed by six of nine Salt Lake County Council members, points to recent studies confirming the effectiveness of face coverings and their ability to reduce risks of transmission.
“Our cases are growing at an alarming rate and I fear that if we don’t move we are going to see our hospitals impacted,” said Wilson.
Governor Herbert’s office sent ABC4 News a statement in regards to the push for mandatory mask-wearing:
“Governor Herbert strongly supports mask wearing in public when social distancing is not possible because it is a sign of respect for the health and well being of others. He is concerned that requiring masks could create divisive enforcement issues at a time when we need to come together of our own accord around a shared concern for one another’s health. That said, local health departments should bring their data and analysis to the Utah Department of Health if they believe there is a need to vary from the current guidelines.”
“The governor has the evidence,” County Mayor Wilson said in response to the governor’s statement.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall also joined Wilson’s call for mandatory masks. She sent ABC4 News the following the statement:
“Salt Lake City’s numbers continue to trend relatively flat, but county and statewide data is showing a concerning upward tick; that is why I’m looking for a next step in COVID prevention that involves more than just our city.
We know that masks are estimated to be 75% to 82% effective at preventing the spread of COVID, so if we want to avoid this continued rate of spread and the need to revert to where we were this spring, requiring masks is a low impact, high return solution that we need to consider.”
Mayor Wilson said she and Mendenhall cannot make the mandatory call for masks on their own due to a recent bill.
“If he believes in local control he should honor my health department, my role as a mayor, and move forward and allow Salt Lake County to move forward and do what is necessary to keep our citizens safe and healthy.”
Late Tuesday night ABC4 News confirmed that there is some difference in interpretation of the new law passed by the legislature.
The Utah Leauge of Cities and Towns and legislative attorneys told ABC4 News that the mayor does have the authority to initiate the mask ban on her own.
Stick with ABC4 News as we follow up on this latest development.