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Grand County considers mask mandate to slow COVID-19 spread

Face mask
Posted at 4:18 PM, Jun 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-29 19:54:13-04

MOAB, Utah — The Grand County Council will hold a special meeting to vote on whether to seek permission from the governor to mandate face coverings.

If it passes Tuesday and is approved by Governor Gary Herbert, Grand County would become the third county to require people to wear face coverings in public to slow the spread of novel coronavirus.

"I would like to see it as just a given that people in Moab have a mask," said Grand County Council Chair Mary McGann in an interview Monday with FOX 13.

Council member McGann said their economy has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Tourists are just starting to return to the Moab area as restrictions have loosened, but their tiny hospital has the ability to be overwhelmed with virus cases.

"My main concern is the health and well-being of the citizens of Grand County. I’m also very concerned about the businesses and our economy. I feel if we have it where everybody has to wear a mask if they go into a building, whether private or public, it will slow the rate of the virus down tremendously," she said.

Council member McGann praised the governor for his support of local governments to make these decisions. Gov. Herbert recently granted permission for Salt Lake and Summit counties to mandate face coverings in public. Both counties argued their economies could be significantly impacted if COVID-19 cases did not decline.

The mandates went into effect over the weekend, requiring people who visit businesses, gatherings or places where social distancing is not possible to wear a face covering over their mouth and nose. In Summit County, failure to comply can be an infraction (on par with a traffic ticket). In Salt Lake County, it's a misdemeanor, but both communities have said the goal is education and not fines or punishment.

Other political leaders across the state have also started to deliberate whether to ask for mandates as a way of getting more people to wear face coverings to slow the spread of the virus. Utah's Department of Health on Monday reported 564 new cases of COVID-19 and one new fatality (bringing the total dead to 168).

Meanwhile, a special commission set up by the Utah State Legislature is recommending more be done to get Utahns to adopt the wearing of face coverings. The Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission recommended spending $1 million on public awareness of the benefits of face coverings.