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Salt Lake County offering free respirator masks as new mandate takes effect

Protesters gather in opposition to the return of mask requirements
Posted at 10:48 PM, Jan 08, 2022

SALT LAKE COUNTY — The Salt Lake County Health Department has made the unprecedented move to require a respirator-type mask as a part of the latest mandate.

A 30-day mask mandate was issued for Salt Lake County late Friday by Dr. Angela Dunn, the executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department. Mayor Jenny Wilson signed the order.

The order has an important distinction from others before it: It requires people to wear respirators — high-quality masks such as N95, KN95 or KF94 — which are certified to filter a minimum amount of airborne particles. However, the health department added that cloth masks are acceptable as a backup until someone can get a respirator.

"On Friday afternoon while preparing to provide masks to community organizations, Salt Lake County Health Department recognized that we had a robust supply of KN95 and (nonsurgical) N95 respirators in our warehouse," SLCHD spokesman Nicholas Rupp wrote in an email Saturday. "Because they provide significantly better transmission protection from omicron, Dr. Dunn, in coordination with county leadership, chose to include respirators as the default requirement in the order, while also acknowledging that cloth masks are acceptable if a respirator is not available."

The county said it is offering respirators to the public at no cost, but they ask that they be reserved for those unable to purchase one themselves. They can be picked up at county senior centers and county library branches.

Officials also reminded the public that surgical N95 masks should be reserved for healthcare use.

“It's always nice to be able to help people who need that just a little extra bit of help here in the community,” said Sara Neal a spokesperson for Salt Lake County Libraries. "Definitely, the past two years have taught us ways that we need to look out for each other and help the community.”

The libraries will now be a place that people can go to get a respirator-style mask for free.

“If you need a mask, you just need to walk into your local branch and ask for them. Any of the staff here at the library can help you," Neal said. "We're offering about two to three per person.”

But not everyone was happy about the mandate on the first day it went into effect, as multiple protests were held in downtown Salt Lake City. Watch the video above to hear what some protesters had to say.

Click here to read the full order.