SALT LAKE CITY — Using emergency powers granted to her office, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Wednesday that masks will still be required in the city despite the end of the statewide mandate this weekend.
Appearing at a briefing with city officials and local business owners, Mendenhall condemned the decision of state lawmakers to end the mandate, saying it has defied the expertise of doctors worldwide.
"The state's lifesaving mask requirement might end on April 10, but nothing will change that day in Salt Lake City," said Mendenhall.
The announcement came a little after Salt Lake County officials announced Wednesday they would not make any efforts to extend a mandate on the recommendation of their health director.
Utah's statewide mask mandate is scheduled to expire Saturday. Many businesses and local government facilities like Salt Lake City International Airport and UTA have already said masks will be required even after the mandate ends.
Rep. Paul Ray (R-Clearfield), the sponsor of the bill that called for the end of pandemic legislation said Mendenhall does not have the authority to extened the mandate in Salt Lake City. Despite his belief, Ray said he will not challenge Mendenhall's authority in court.
Mendenhall shared data showing that COVID-19 cases in the city have plateaued, ending a recent streak of lowering rates. The mayor expressed fear over low vaccination rates in certain areas and the rise of variants throughout the country.
Those numbers are why Mendenhall feels it is necessary to keep a mandate in place in the city.
"As a city, we will be guided by public health data and that protecting the health of our residents will always be my highest priority," Mendenhall said. "That North Star has meant making some difficult, and sometimes unpopular decisions based on the advice of public health experts."
Mendenhall previously asked residents to continue to wear masks in an effort to halt the spread of COVID-19. Her order requiring masks to be worn removes the option.
"I can't wait until the day comes when the data allows me to write an order rescinding the lifesaving mask requirement, but today is not that day and April 10 is not that day, either," said Mendenhall.