MOAB, Utah — The "COVID-19 endgame" law that terminated all public health orders related to the pandemic has ended Grand County's mask mandate in the midst of a surge in virus cases.
Grand County Commission Chair Mary McGann expressed some frustration at their mask mandate being terminated by the Utah State Legislature.
"I would ask the legislators to do what they preach and stop complaining about overreach and then overreaching themselves," she said in an interview Wednesday with FOX 13.
The Utah tourism hotspot is currently listed as the area with the most COVID-19 cases. Chair McGann said they had recorded a case rate of about 1,300 cases per 100,000. That is well above the "endgame" law's metrics of 191 per 100,000.
But the statewide case rate is 163 per 100,000. That, combined with an 11% intensive care unit hospitalization rate and 1.65 million prime doses of COVID-19 vaccine distributed statewide led to the new law kicking in and ending public health orders. When the law first took effect and ended the statewide mask mandate on April 10, local governments were allowed to issue their own.
Only Grand County did that (Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall issued her own emergency order mandating masks that has also been terminated now).
"Once the three metrics kicked in, that allowance was gone," said Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, who sponsored the law.
Rep. Ray defended the law, saying in an interview with FOX 13 that vaccinations are looking good and it is time.
"We finally are normalizing," he said. "The numbers are in safe place to normalize. This will help people get back to normal."
At the time, Chair McGann said the Moab area gets around three million visitors a year and they have a 17-bed hospital that could not handle a surge in COVID-19 cases.
"We’re lucky because we have a higher than average vaccination rate in Grand County. My hope is the people that do get sick don’t get severely sick and we don’t have to deal with our hospital becoming overcrowded. That’s just a hope," she said. "If we had been able to keep our mask mandate, the health department believes by the time it was going to expire in June we’d have been through this surge. But now I don’t know if this means the surge will go on longer."
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has also expressed frustration at her emergency order mandating masks in Utah's capital city being terminated. She is now issuing a new order requiring masks in all city-owned facilities, which she can do under the law.
Grand County will mandate masks in all facilities it owns. Chair McGann said they are also encouraging businesses to still require masks for now.