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No statewide mask mandate, but local governments can implement them without Gov. Herbert's blessing

Governor Gary Herbert Face mask
Posted at 2:34 PM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-07 13:59:58-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert once again declined to issue a statewide mask mandate, but changed his policy to allow local cities and counties to go ahead and implement them without having to seek his permission.

At a news conference on Thursday, the governor announced the change in policy. Instead of saying "Governor, may I?" a community can institute a mandate and just let his office and the state's COVID-19 Unified Command know they've done it.

"There’s not really any reason not to grant that request. I’m a local control person, those folks know their politics, their culture," he told reporters.

Salt Lake, Summit and Grand counties have mandated face coverings in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. So has Logan and Springdale. In each of those instances, they had to seek permission from the governor, who granted it. The legislature tweaked the laws so that local municipalities could not have orders more restrictive than the state without a special dispensation from the governor.

Salt Lake County has reported success with the mandate, seeing cases of novel coronavirus decline. Mayor Jenny Wilson has repeatedly called on the governor to issue a statewide mandate.

On Thursday, the governor once again said a statewide mandate remains a possibility if there is another surge in cases. He reiterated his belief that Utahns would voluntarily adopt the wearing of face masks to be good neighbors. He said surveys conducted have shown roughly 80% of people say they sometimes or always wear a mask in public. Only 3% have flat-out refused.

The governor seemed to push back at anti-mask activists, noting people like to throw the word "liberty" around a lot.

"I also understand liberty needs to be coupled with individual responsibility. We have a responsibility to be good citizens," he said.

On Wednesday, the mayors of 10 southern Utah cities and two Washington County commissioners issued a proclamation calling on residents to wear face coverings. So far, only one of those communities (Springdale) has sought a mandate.