SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert has granted requests to mandate face coverings in Grand County and in the city of Springdale, FOX 13 has confirmed.
The mandates go into effect July 3.
The requests would encompass three of the state's biggest tourism hot spots headed into a long holiday weekend. Grand County includes Moab as well as Arches and Canyonlands national parks. Springdale is the gateway to Zion National Park.
It is unclear, however, if the mandates would extend into the park lands which are run by the federal government. Grand County Council Chair Mary McGann said in the past, the parks have adopted other county rules. She was glad to see the governor grant their request.
"I think it’s going to make it easier. I’ve talked to business owners that are a little shy to require it. Now they say, 'Well, you know the governor’s given us permission to have face masks required so we’d really appreciate if you’d wear a face mask into our establishment," McGann said in an interview with FOX 13 on Thursday.
The Grand County Council voted 5-2 last week to request a mandate of the governor. The Council will vote on an order at next week's meeting. Moab-area officials have expressed concerns about visitors from all over the country bringing the virus in and whether their smaller health care system could handle a surge in COVID-19 cases.
"If they have their masks on and everybody else has their masks on, they’re not going to catch it in Moab and take it home! So it’ll help everyone," McGann said.
Kevin Lewis, the director of the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office, said they were supportive of Springdale's request. He said the eight weeks that businesses were closed (and the park as well) significantly impacted southwestern Utah's economy. The area has also seen a rise in COVID-19 cases lately.
"No one wants to shut down again. We really need to keep this alive and going and if we take these simple steps and keep this stable, we’re all going to be better off for it," he told FOX 13.
Salt Lake and Summit counties issued mandates last week with permission from the governor. They have argued the mandates are necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reverse a surge in cases in Utah that could overwhelm the health care system. On Thursday, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson extended her mandate until August 20.
Nicholas Rupp, a spokesman for the Salt Lake County Health Department, said they have only had a week of the mask mandate, but already had seen signs people were complying. It would be at least another week before data would come in on whether it is leading to a decline in cases.
"We are seeing more consistent, widespread use of face coverings in the county and we really appreciate that because we need everyone participating and doing their part if we’re going to control the spread of COVID," Rupp told FOX 13.
Dr. Angela Dunn, the state epidemiologist, has encouraged widespread adoption of face coverings. On Thursday, Utah's Department of Health reported 554 new cases of COVID-19 in the state (for a total of 23,270 cases since mid-March) and three new fatalities, bringing the total number of dead to 176 since the beginning of the outbreak.
On Twitter, Dr. Dunn issued a warning for people over the holiday weekend:
We had a #COVID19 surge after Memorial Day. Our hospitals can’t handle another one. We are spending the holiday weekend apart from others, outside in the fresh air, and wearing masks IF we have to go anywhere else. Please do the same. pic.twitter.com/EmxfEbuuBd— Dr. Angela Dunn (@DrAngelaCDunn) July 2, 2020