In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the Provo City Council approved a citywide mask mandate.
The mandate requires people to wear face masks in public spaces, public buildings and public events where social distancing is not possible. Any outdoor gathering with more than 25 people requires mask wearing if people can’t socially distance. It also requires face coverings at any indoor gathering of 50 people or more, regardless of whether social distancing is possible. The City Council also called on Mayor Michelle Kaufusi to beef up the city’s educational “Mask-Up” campaign.
But moments after the City Council passed the ordinance, Kaufusi said she intended to veto it.
“I favor staying on the path that we have been on until now, a path that I think has been highly effective in implementing a sea change in behavior throughout our city in a relatively short period of time,” Kaufusi told the council at the Tuesday meeting.
The mayor said she preferred continuing “self-regulation” and educational outreach during the pandemic.
The City Council tweeted that if the mayor did veto the rule, it can reconvene to override her decision.
Kaufusi followed through with her veto Wednesday and the City Council has since issued notice of a special meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday to reconsider the mandate. The council likely has enough votes to override the mayor.
The mask ordinance allows exemptions for people with health complications, diners sitting down at a restaurant and for people who are excising. Those caught violating the mask mandate are subject to a $55 fine. Organizers of large gatherings who fail to notify attendees about the mask requirement, or don’t enforce it, face a $500 penalty.
The mandate expires on Nov. 15, 2020, unless the City Council votes to extend it before Oct. 20.
The City Council’s resolution supporting the mask mandate cites both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice as well as a recent Brigham Young University study that found face coverings “could be the most powerful and cost-effective tools” to both stop the spread of COVID-19 and improve the economy. It cited concerns about university students returning to schools.
The resolution also called on Provo residents and visitors to “take this COVID-19 crisis seriously” and to be “respectful of persons whose opinions and health issues are different than your own”.
Last month, an angry crowd gathered at a Utah County Commission meeting, ignoring social distancing guidelines, to protest a mask mandate for school children put in place by the governor.
Neighboring Salt Lake County, however, says masks work in reducing COVID-19 cases, citing a reduction in infections that correlated with its own mandate that went into effect in June. That rule has since been extended to the end of 2020.