“In Utah, we prefer to encourage people to do the right thing rather than issuing mandates and demanding compliance,” said Wilson, R-Kaysville.
Adams, R-Layton, added that he’s asking residents to “help out by wearing a mask voluntarily.”
It’s unclear how or if their views will affect the governor’s actions. A spokeswoman for Herbert’s office responded, saying only that the governor is expected to announce his decision Thursday morning. Adams, though, has previously said, “We are all aligned.”
That creates somewhat of a political tightrope for the governor.
Adams acknowledged that division in his statement. He falls on the side of freedom, though. The Senate president said while he supports wearing masks to protect the vulnerable and allow the state to return to normal more quickly, it’s ultimately a balance “between policies that protect public health and citizens’ rights.” The state, he added, should first see what the response is when it asks residents to wear coverings willingly and “do what we can.”
Wilson suggested, too, that it’s “prudent to stop short” of requiring them. He pointed to rural areas that have lower infection rates and shouldn’t be caught up in a statewide rule.
“Local officials are better positioned to make data-driven decisions regarding face masks that are tailored to their communities,” the speaker said. However, the Legislature passed a bill earlier this year making it so local governments have to get permission from the governor to pass stricter mandates such as that.
There is also pressure for the governor to go the other way on the issue. Other U.S. states have been forced to roll back steps toward reopening their economies. And Herbert has promised not to do that here. Requiring masks might be a compromise.
Hospitals in the state are also pushing for masks and have started their own campaign with the #MaskUpUtah hashtag. That came two weeks ago as intensive care unit beds began filling up across Utah.
Local companies, as well, have been urging the governor to issue a mandate. Late last week, a group of 146 Utah businesses, arts groups and associations around the Wasatch Front released an open letter, begging the state to toughen its face mask rules.
Both Wilson and Adams said regardless of whether there’s a requirement, people should take personal responsibility. The leaders urged Utahns not to ease up on safety measures.
The pandemic, they said, is not over.