What does H.B. 294 entail?
The bill highlights the following provisions:
- Provides for the termination of certain emergency powers and public health orders related to COVID-19 upon reaching certain thresholds of positivity rates, case rates intensive care facility capacities, and vaccine doses
- Allows health and safety measures in a K-12 school under certain circumstances
- Allows a local health department, with approval from the county legislative body, to take certain health and safety measures
- Allows a public health emergency declared by the Department of Health or a local health department to remain in effect
- Allows the governor and the Department of Health to issue a public health order related to the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines
- Provides an automatic repeal date
- And makes technical changes
It also states “a public health order pertaining to the wearing of a maks issued by the Department of Health may remain in effect it: the mask requirement pertains only to a gathering of 50 or more people; and an individual at the gathering of 50 or more people is unable to physically distance.”
The bill was signed into law on March 24.
On the eve April 10, the Utah Department of Health did indeed release a new state public health order clarifying the new guidelines for Utahns. The new order will remain in place until June 15. Read more about the new order here.
What happens when the mask mandate ends?
Just because the mandate is lifted, doesn’t mean you can stop wearing a mask and businesses can’t require mask-wearing. Masks can still be worn, and are even encouraged by many state leaders.
Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox shared businesses can – and should – require masks of workers and patrons, at least until the state has 1.6 million vaccine doses available. That might not be until late May, the governor shares.
When the mask mandate does end on April 10, Gov. Cox says he wants to encourage businesses to continue to require masks and advises Utahns to take personal responsibility for their health as the coronavirus still remains in our communities.
What will it look like when the statewide mask mandate lifts?
Charla Haley, Public Information Officer for the Utah Department of Health tells ABC4, “H.B. 294 does away with the statewide mask mandate on April 10, but mask requirements remain in place for schools and groups larger than 50.”
Haley says the state’s recommendation is “for businesses and residents to continue wearing masks even though the statewide mandate has ended.” She says Gov. Cox has “implored Utahns to be respectful of businesses and individuals who wish to continue wearing masks.”
She says local health departments do have the flexibility to require masks within their jurisdictions as they see necessary.
Are there any health concerns surrounding the mask mandate ending?
“Face masks have proven very successful in keeping illness from spreading between two individuals who are both wearing masks. Given the fact that variants are currently spreading in Utah, we would continue to recommend people wear face masks when they’re around people from other households who haven’t been vaccinated,” Haley shares with ABC4.
Haley says all other COVID-19 restrictions will end as soon as Utah reaches three benchmarks:
- A two-week COVID-19 case rate of less than 191 per 100,000
- Fewer than 15% of intensive care unit beds occupied by COVID-19 patients
- Once we receive 1.63 M first vaccine doses (as of April 5, we have received 920,515 prime doses)
What protocols are being put in place as the mask mandate ends?
Some Utah leaders have already put protocols in place ahead of the mask mandate being lifting.
Gov. Cox has extended the mask mandate for all state employees.
According to the governor’s office, the mask mandate for state employees has been extended through May 31, 2021.
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson released a statement encouraging all Salt Lake County residents to continue to wear masks regardless of whether a mask mandate is in place in the county or not.
“Let’s not lose the game in the 8th inning, Let’s not spike the ball before the end-zone, or in honor of tonight’s college basketball final, Let’s not walk off the court before the shot goes in. All of these statements relate to ending mask-wearing too soon. I know we are fatigued but let’s not give up,” Mayor Jenny Wilson shared in the statement.
Salt Lake County and the Salt Lake County Health Department announced it is not necessary for the county to enact a county-wide mask mandate. The Salt Lake County Health Department says they have made the decision not to have a mask mandate based on data.
The Salt Lake County Health Department does say it is likely they will require mask wearing for events of over 50 people after the statewide mandate ends.
After Salt Lake County officials announced plans to not extend a mask mandate within its jurisdiction Salt Lake City’s Mayor Erin Mendendall announced Salt Lake City would be extending the mandate past the states.
“We need to keep doing what has worked-wearing masks,” Mayor Mendenhall shares during a press conference Wednesday.
The mandate that will extend in Salt Lake City will remain the same as the current mandate in effect by the state. “Nothing changes from that,” Maylor Mendenhall shares.