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Cox terminates mask mandate for state facilities

Masks at office
Posted at 9:10 AM, May 14, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox has terminated a mask mandate for state facilities, effective Saturday.

In a memo sent to state agencies obtained by FOX 13, the governor's chief of staff announced they would end the mask mandate for places like Capitol Hill, Driver License Division offices and state-run liquor stores. It is in light of the recent CDC guidance on masks for fully vaccinated individuals.

"Nevertheless, until the Utah Department of Health determines that the COVID-19 pandemic has abated, employees may continue to wear masks. We also continue to strongly encourage the following:

  1. state agencies should continue to post conspicuous signage listing COVID-19 symptoms and requesting individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to stay home;
  2. employees should become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible; and
  3. employees should take necessary health and safety precautions, including good hygiene practices such as regular hand-washing and workplace sanitizing.

We emphasize that the termination of the mask requirement is not a prohibition against mask wearing. Mask wearing continues to offer health benefits and is left to the discretion of each individual employee. Employees should respect the decisions of others regarding masks."

Gov. Cox originally ordered masks to remain in all state-run facilities until May 31, even after the COVID-19 "endgame" bill passed by the legislature lifted the statewide mask mandate.

In another email obtained by FOX 13, House Speaker Brad Wilson announced next week the Utah State Legislature would not require masks. The Speaker famously banned handshakes on Capitol Hill in the early days of the pandemic.

"As we have learned to live with—and adapt to—this virus, we have continually made changes to our response efforts appropriate to the risk levels and current medical understanding. We have watched as stringency in testing has been relaxed, distancing requirements have decreased, and plexiglass barriers have come down. We are getting back to operations as normal and it is truly a wonderful feeling," the Speaker wrote to House members.

"At this time, any adult in the state has had ample opportunity to receive both doses of the COVID vaccine. We are now in a position where collective action is no longer warranted to protect others; it is now time for individuals to take primary responsibility for protecting themselves. As such, I am pleased to say that during our interim meetings and Special Session this month, there will be no masks required while in legislative spaces in the Capitol. If you feel inclined, please continue wearing a mask. However, we will not require masks while in the House Chamber."

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson had a mask mandate for all county-run facilities. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall had imposed a mask mandate for city-run facilities. On Friday, both modified them to allow fully vaccinated people to go without masks.