SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County has seen COVID-19 cases continue to drop.
"We’re pleased with declining counts as we go into school. We fear we will be seeing, unfortunately, cases rise," Mayor Jenny Wilson said in a briefing with the Salt Lake County Council on Tuesday.
But the Salt Lake County Health Department said it was happy with the direction things were going overall in Utah's most populous county.
"As we’ve seen those positive cases come down, we’ve seen our positivity rate come down and as a result we’ve seen our testing come down," said Gary Edwards, the director of the health department.
Data presented to the council showed signs Mayor Wilson's mandate that face coverings be worn in public is working to cut the spread of the deadly virus. The county's COVID-19 task force showed council members data points that showed 14 days after her mandate went into effect, novel coronavirus cases started to decline. The typical incubation period for COVID-19 is five to 14 days.
What's also encouraging is how well people who live and work in Salt Lake County have taken to adopting the wearing of face coverings -- and wearing them properly by covering their nose and mouth. County health workers conducted "observational studies" over the past week at businesses in Salt Lake County, where masks would be required. They also compared it to what they observed in similar situations in Washington, Davis, Utah and Summit counties and in the city of Logan.
"Out of the 6 observation sectors, Salt Lake County ranked number one," said David Schuld with the county's COVID-19 task force.
The data given to the council showed over 90% of those observed at grocery stores and other businesses were wearing face masks and wearing them properly. Only 8% of those seen were not wearing them properly (mostly with their nose sticking out). The mandate requires face coverings in all businesses and in public where it is not possible to be at least six feet from someone else.
The task force did not present how the other counties did with compliance. Salt Lake, Summit and Grand counties have implemented mandates. So have the cities Logan and Springdale. The Provo City Council was set to vote on a mask mandate on Tuesday night.
Governor Gary Herbert has faced pressure to mandate face coverings statewide, but has so far decided to make it voluntary, urging Utahns to do it as a sign of respect for their neighbors. He has allowed local communities to implement their own mandates without his permission.
However, the governor has mandated face coverings in all state-run facilities including the Capitol grounds, DABC stores and driver license offices. He has also mandated face masks in all K-12 schools for students, teachers, staff and visitors. That's sparked protests across the state from people who want it to be "voluntary" in schools.
Gov. Herbert's office has said face coverings in schools will be mandatory.