MASKS IN UTAH: Lawmakers weigh in on possible return of statewide mask mandate

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The CDC’s newest guidelines could change mask requirements in Utah.

A couple of lawmakers addressed this possibility Tuesday. ABC 4’s Jordan Burrows joins us live to tell us what they said.

Right now legislators said it doesn’t mean too much, but it has them talking about whether they should call for a special session regarding a mask mandate.

Both sides of the political aisle said they want to make sure they’re doing the right thing before school starts in the new couple of weeks.

“We believe in local control,” said Democrat Rep. Brian King. “We say we believe in local control. Let’s put our money where our mouth is.”

King said school districts should be able to decide for themselves what’s best, not state government.

King would be in favor of another mask mandate if national health leaders require it.

“We have to, if we are smart, we have to rely on people who study this,” said King. “Examine it and research it, carefully for a living, who are professionals.”

HB 1007 in Utah prevents schools from requiring masks.

Republican Representative Paul Ray said he and his colleagues will certainly reevaluate masks before the school year, but said it’s not necessary.

“I’m still not too concerned,” said Ray. “Our numbers are sitting in the middle 600’s right now and according to the health department, 99.5% of those are all unvaccinated people.”

Ray’s take is supporting the vaccine.

He said that takes precedence.

“As a state, the one thing we do very well is sometimes ignore the federal government and do what works best for Utah,” said Ray.

Utah is experiencing a surge in Covid’s Delta variant.

The seven-day average of Covid-19 cases almost matches where it was this time last year.

“So I just don’t think it is a close at all and I think Utahns generally would say to us at the legislature follow what the experts are saying we should do in Utah,” said King.

King said there has been plenty of behind-the-scenes discussions about masking.

In Utah, private businesses can require a mask, but without an emergency health order or legislation, masks cannot be required anywhere else. 

Lawmakers said they could call for a special session and have it within a matter of days.

However, either the legislature or Gov. Cox would have to call that into session.

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