SALT LAKE CITY — On April 10, 2021, many thought masks would soon be a thing of the past.
That was the day that Utah House Bill 294 — nicknamed the “COVID-19 endgame bill” — dissolved a mask mandate for the state of Utah.
On that day Utah had 344 reported cases, and the trend was going down to manageable levels.
Hospitals were rejoicing, and many Utahns were on track to again resume their lives as a whole — putting COVID behind us.
Eight months later, on Friday, Jan. 7, Utah yet again shattered its record for COVID-19 positive cases, hitting 9,469.
At midnight (12 a.m. Saturday) will also mark the start of another mask mandate in Salt Lake County for at least the next 30 days, again putting us in the thick of the pandemic with an overrun of omicron variant cases.
“We've been through it, so we're definitely more prepared now,” said Randall Curtis, the owner of Harbor Seafood and Steak. "We're way savvy on, like, what we need to do to be ready for this.”
Businesses were impacted hard during the first COVID-19 surge in the state, especially restaurants like Curtis', so they learned creative ways to stay afloat and still serve the people.
Now he feels like he's "definitely like 10 steps ahead of the virus this year compared to last year.”
So, starting Saturday, the message is: “You've got to have masks to come in.”
That same message applies across town at a very different kind of business: Vivint Arena.
“It's a busy time for the arena,” said Frank Zang, a spokesman for Vivint Arena and the Utah Jazz. “We've got monster trucks in town this weekend. Harlem Globetrotters are here on Tuesday night. The next Jazz home game is Wednesday night. We've got a concert at the end of next week as well.”
The arena was already requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test 72 hours before entering, which will still continue, but now masks will also be enforced at all times except when eating or drinking temporarily.
“Our staff is well versed, and we are prepared,” Zang said in support of the mandate, adding that they feel they are ready for this new mandate.
Aside from the mandate, Curtis said people are canceling reservations at his restaurant. They’ve had those before during the pandemic because of fear of the virus, but now they are canceling for a far more worrying issue.
“We had 40 people cancel in one night, and they were large corporate parties that were half their group had the virus," he said.
So, while we are now nearly two years into the pandemic, it isn’t done having an effect on our community.
“We want to follow the law. We want to follow the rules," Curtis concluded. "We want everyone to be safe. I definitely sympathize with people that don't want to wear a mask, but it's just unfortunate. It's just the times.”