The highly contagious omicron variant is sweeping through Utah, prompting several local mask mandates.
There is no statewide mask mandate. But local mandates listed below apply to residents and visitors alike, regardless of vaccination status.
Check back here for the latest guidance on where masks are required in the state, who is exempt and when orders are set to expire.
Salt Lake City
Masks are required in all city buildings and in all K-12 schools. The Salt Lake City Council extended the school mask mandate until March 28.
Masks do not need to be worn when people are actively eating, drinking or exercising. People with certain medical conditions and children under 2 are also exempt.
More information about the school mask mandate can be found by reading Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s Proclamation B of 2021.
Information about the city building order is included in the mayor’s Executive Order No. 3 of 2021.
Salt Lake County
Well-fitting masks must be worn inside all public spaces in the county, including businesses, schools, churches and restaurants, regardless of vaccination status. Masks must also be worn outdoors when people are lining up.
The mandate is set to expire at 5 p.m. on Feb. 7. Masks do not need to be worn when people are actively eating, drinking or exercising. People with certain medical conditions and children under 2 are also exempt.
Details about the mandate are available on the Salt Lake County Health Department COVID-19 public health order webpage.
Masks must be worn inside all public spaces in the county, including businesses, schools, hotels, churches and restaurants, regardless of vaccination status. Masks must also be worn outdoors when lining up.
The order is set to expire at 5 p.m. on February 21. Masks do not need to be worn when people are actively eating, drinking or exercising. People with certain medical conditions and children under 2 are also exempt.
The Summit County Health Department has created a webpage with more details about the mandate.
Masks must be worn inside all buildings at national parks in Utah, regardless of vaccination status. That includes visitor centers, administrative buildings, restrooms, campground common areas and concession areas.
Masks must also be worn outdoors when social distancing is not possible, but they can be taken off when actively eating or drinking. Children under 2 are exempt.
The National Park Service superintendent issued a compendium with more details.
What masks to wear
According to Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious diseases physician at Intermountain Healthcare, “If you’re outside and you’re in a group, a cloth mask is probably going to be sufficient.”
“But if you’re going to be indoors and there’s going to be a number of people there, cloth masks probably aren’t going to be sufficient in terms of protecting you from omicron,” Stenehjem told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Still, any mask is better than no mask, according to Dr. Emily Spivak, an infectious diseases physician with University of Utah Health. And any mask you wear should fit well, sitting snugly on your face with no gaps.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidance on where to find masks and how to wear them properly, advising that an N95 respirator offers the most filtration.
But practically speaking, Stenehjem noted that not everybody is going to to be able to get hold of an N95. They are also “really tight-fitting” and can be difficult to wear for prolonged periods of time, he said.
Dr. Leisha Nolen, the Utah Department of Health’s state epidemiologist, also noted that it is important that N95 masks remain available for health care workers.
“So I think the biggest focus should be on a well-fitted, decently ventilated mask,” Stenehjem said.
That could be a surgical mask with a cloth mask on top of it, Stenehjem said — surgical masks offer adequate filtration, and cloth masks tend to fit more snugly. A KN95 is also a good option, Nolen said.
On Friday, when Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Dr. Angela Dunn announced the countywide mandate, she said KN95 masks will be available Saturday at libraries, senior centers and other community buildings, since the masks are more successful in preventing transmission of the variant than cloth ones.