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Salt Lake County Council votes to keep mask mandate in place

Posted at 4:19 PM, Jan 13, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — During a special session of the Salt Lake County Council, members voted Thursday against a motion to overturn the county's controversial mask mandate.

READ: Utah suspends school COVID-19 'test-to-stay' protocols

The final vote was 5-4 against overturning the mandate order put in place last week. No public comment was allowed during the session which was held with some members joining remotely.

As expected, two Republican council members, Chair Laurie Stringham and Aimee Winder-Newton, joined with Democratic colleagues in supporting the mandate.

With the vote tied at 4-4, Stringham made an impassioned statement before her vote, blaming government leaders and her fellow council members for failing to pull together to come up with a solution.

"If I seem frustrated, I am," said Stringham. "I have been on the phone nonstop, while being sick, while trying to figure all this out. I haven't slept. I haven't eaten. I haven't been able to take care of my kids because I've been dealing with this issue and trying to see what we can get with public people.

"What can we do outside of this? What is a better plan?"

Stringham said she will meet with state leaders Monday and will call another emergency meeting should they come up with an alternate plan.

In a prerecorded address to the council, Winder-Newton, who currently has COVID-19, explained her vote as one to help stop staffing shortages among healthcare workers and emergency responders.

"It's time that we join together and work to get through the next few hard weeks," Winder-Newton said. "I'm not a fan of government mandates, but we have to do something — anything — to slow down the spread."

“I wonder what information my colleagues feel like they have that the people don’t have,” said Councilman David Alvord. “I feel like in this instance, the people are very well-informed and they made their will very well-known to me at least.”

Theodore shared her doubts in the effectiveness of masks and vaccines, saying it’s a matter of choice.

“People who want to do their part, they’re going to do their part,” she said. “People who are not willing to wear a mask are not going to wear a mask, and I don’t think that really has a bearing on their sense of community. I just think its their personal choice.”

The vote happened to fall on the same day Utah saw another day of record-breaking COVID-19 case counts.

READ: Utah surge ongoing with 12,990 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

Salt Lake County mayor Jenny Wilson shared a statement after the vote, writing, “Salt Lake County currently has nearly 47,000 reported cases of COVID-19 over the last 14 days, our largest number in the pandemic. Our schools are in disarray due to such large spread and our economy is being impacted by staffing shortages due to active COVID-19 cases. Most importantly, high case counts lead to high hospitalizations and the loss of life.”

“There is some good news with the likely decline of Omicron cases on the east coast of the United States, yet evidence is that we have not yet ‘peaked’ here in Utah. I am very hopeful that we will see a rapid decline and that we have a healthier spring ahead, but in the meantime we must all do our part,” she said.

The vote came after a contentious session Tuesday in which dozens of people showed up to share their anger over the mandate ordered by Health Department Executive Director Dr. Angela Dunn.

On Wednesday, Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson claimed certain state lawmakers were considering legislation to overturn the mandate in case the council refused to do so.