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SLC businesses will require masks after statewide mandate expires

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Posted at 9:54 PM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-20 00:20:41-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Despite the expiration of the statewide mask mandate, April 10th will not be the end of wearing masks in Utah.

On Friday, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall joined several businesses to announce that mask wearing will be required in many establishments, even after the mandate goes away.

The businesses included Harmon's, Publik Coffee, Santo Taco and Break Bread Barber Co.

It's still undecided if Salt Lake City or Salt Lake County will enact a mask mandate after April 10, but those businesses are moving forward with their own requirements.

Even from the outside, Santo Taco in Rose Park gives off fun, colorful and lively vibes.

Bright turquoise words on the windows welcome customers in, with rows of papel picado banners hanging inside overhead.

Lately, restaurants like Santo Taco have been sizzling with news that the vaccine rollout is going full steam ahead for everyone 16 and older.

"I was just seeing that! That's awesome," cook Carmelo Briones said of the fact that food service workers can soon get the vaccine.

Some of the 17-year old's co-workers are already vaccinated, but he hasn't been able to get his shot.

"Some of us are not vaccine, and we need the mask," he said. "I have never taken my mask off at work. It's not my thing."

While Briones plans to make a vaccination appointment as soon as he can, he knows he won't be fully vaccinated before April 10.

Because of that, the statewide mask mandate lifting on that day is worrisome for the owner of Santo Taco, Alfonso Brito.

Speaking at a press conference Friday, Brito said half of his employees still aren't vaccinated.

While supporting local businesses is important, he said, so is safety of the community.

"We support the use of masks until we all get the state vaccinated," Brito said.

Mark Jensen, the president and CEO of Harmon's, told the crowd at the press conference that 80 percent of their associates have not been vaccinated.

"We believe, though, it's going to take about another eight weeks to get all of our associates fully vaccinated so that they're safe," Jensen said.

A mask is a small price to pay to have a business open, he said.

Missy Greis, the owner of Publik Coffee, spoke next, saying that only 10 employees will be fully vaccinated by April 10. They will continue to practice current protocol and safety guidelines, she explained.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall said that it's data over dates.

"We still need to exercise caution," Mendenhall said. "Even though our COVID-19 numbers have dropped and are continuing to drop significantly over the last few months, mask wearing is still vital. We're not done."

She's not sure yet if they'll enact a city-wide mask mandate after April 10. Mendenhall said they are still looking a three-week lead up to the decision point. For April 10, that means next week they'll start looking at the data.

They hope to see a decline in cases, she said. They'll also look at vaccination numbers, especially in areas of the city hardest hit by COVID-19.

Salt Lake County also told FOX 13 it's too early to decide on a county-wide mandate.

Nicholas Rupp with the Salt Lake County Health Department said Friday the State of Utah is vaccinating 30,000 people a day, with the potential to vaccinate more than half a million people between now and April 10.

"So in early April, we will evaluate vaccination rates, case rates, hospitalizations, and other metrics to determine what action may be necessary to protect public health in Salt Lake County," he wrote.

That said, Rupp added that they still recommend masks post-vaccination. He said masks will be essential until we achieve herd immunity and children can be vaccinated.

Next door to Santo Taco, Break Bread Barber Company owner Ricky Arriola said they are happy to see the progress Utah has made during the pandemic. He said they will continue to do their part, by making sure all staff and clients are fully masked in the shop.

"We can't do this alone," he said. "It takes everybody in the community."