Starting Saturday, visitors to state-run liquor stores and other Utah government buildings will be able to walk through the doors mask-free.
And, in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, employees and visitors to government facilities, like recreation centers and libraries, will not be required to wear face coverings either — but only if they’re fully vaccinated.
Gov. Spencer Cox and the two mayors are rolling back the face covering requirements in light of dropping COVID-19 case counts and growing vaccination numbers.
Employees at state-owned buildings can keep wearing masks if they prefer until the Utah Department of Health “determines that the COVID-19 pandemic has abated,” Jon Pierpont, Cox’s chief of staff, wrote in a Wednesday memo to executive branch workers.
“Mask-wearing continues to offer health benefits and is left to the discretion of each individual employee,” Pierpont continued in the memo, first reported by FOX 13. “Employees should respect the decisions of others regarding masks.”
He directed state agencies to post “conspicuous signage” asking people to stay home if they’re experiencing listed symptoms of COVID-19. The memo also encourages state workers to get their coronavirus shots as soon as possible and to continue washing their hands and sanitizing their workspaces regularly.
The governor’s face covering policy kicked in April 10, when a law passed by the Utah Legislature ended the statewide mask mandate that had previously been in effect. The policy would’ve run through the end of May if Cox hadn’t lifted it early.
Cox also just announced that he’s terminating the statewide rule requiring masks in K-12 schools for the upcoming last week of classes.
And House Speaker Brad Wilson has said members of his chamber will not have to wear masks in the Utah Capitol during next week’s legislative meetings and special session.
“We are getting back to operations as normal, and it is truly a wonderful feeling,” the Kaysville Republican wrote in an email to House members.
He added that because “any adult in the state has had ample opportunity” to get a vaccine, it’s no longer necessary to impose a face covering rule on the Legislature. However, he invited lawmakers to keep masking up if they wanted.
“We are now in a position where collective action is no longer warranted to protect others,” he said. “It is now time for individuals to take primary responsibility for protecting themselves.”
On Friday morning, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall tweaked her executive order on face coverings to excuse vaccinated individuals from having to wear masks inside city facilities, citing new federal health guidance that fully inoculated people can safely go without masks in most settings.
“Yesterday’s [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] announcement that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks is long-awaited news for many,” Mendenhall said in a news release.
However, she added, even fully vaccinated city employees “are encouraged to continue wearing masks in public spaces or when it is not possible to socially distance from other individuals.”
Friday afternoon, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson held a new conference that also lifted mask-wearing requirements in county facilities, but she said those who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear them.
She reminded county residents that not all Utahns have been able to receive the vaccine, whether because they’re too young, they have scheduling conflicts or they were advised against it for medical reasons.
“What we don’t want are vaccine wars,” Wilson said. “Half of us are protected, partially at least, half of us are not. That means we have to have respect and concern and honor in this community, one person to the next.”
The mayor also noted that businesses, churches and other community groups may have varying mask and public health requirements.
“We need to honor that,” the mayor said. “[If] the sign says wear your mask, even if you are vaccinated, wear your masks as you go in or choose to go elsewhere.”
The mayor further urged those who haven’t received the vaccine to sign up if they are eligible. Many of the county’s own vaccination facilities now allow walk-in appointments. For help finding a vaccine location, call 385-468-SHOT.