PROVO, Utah — If Utah County commissioners impose a countywide mask mandate, Sheriff Mike Smith said he would not enforce it.
"As the sheriff? I won’t have my deputies enforcing a mask mandate. I think it’s such a controversial issue," Sheriff Smith told mayors and commissioners during an emergency phone call that FOX 13 was invited to listen to.
The Utah County Health Department said it would be unable to enforce a mandate because its health officers were already stretched thin dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. It would likely fall on the shoulders of local police agencies.
Salt Lake County imposed a mask mandate that has been effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19, the state epidemiologist said in the emergency call. Utah's Department of Health said it has seen 90% compliance with the mandate in Utah's most populous county. However, the county has not done any criminal enforcement but opted for educational outreach for people who violate the health order.
During the meeting, state health officials outlined the dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases in Utah County, driven largely by off-campus activities of college-age students. One commissioner floated the idea of a mask mandate, but others pushed back and favored educational campaigns to get students to physical distance, wear masks and practice good hygiene.
Brigham Young University has said it has disciplined 15 students so far for violating COVID-19 health guidelines.