SALT LAKE CITY — A commission created by the Utah State Legislature to help with re-opening the state's economy is going all-in on face coverings.
The Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission is recommending the state spend $1 million toward public awareness efforts about the benefits of wearing a face covering.
"If wearing a mask means we can re-open the economy? I’ll wear a mask," said Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, who co-chairs the commission.
In an interview with FOX 13 on Monday, Sen. Hemmert said their goal is to get more people to adopt face coverings as a practice, which can slow COVID-19 transmission rates and help keep hospitalizations down. Utah has seen a surge in novel coronavirus cases recently.
Salt Lake and Summit counties were given permission by Governor Gary Herbert to mandate the wearing of face masks at businesses, gatherings and even outdoors where social distancing is not possible. Those mandates went into effect on Saturday. Grand County's Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether to request a mandate for the Moab area.
Sen. Hemmert said he does not support government mandates on face coverings, but said a business was well within its rights to mandate it. He urged Utahns who have been reluctant to adopt wearing them to do so as a way of helping businesses and the state recover.
The commission recently recommended a number of Utah counties move to "green" on the COVID-19 color-coded risk scale the state uses. That has been put on pause by the governor as Utah experiences a spike in coronavirus cases. Sen. Hemmert said it appears that restrictions will not be loosened without more mask wearing.
"To get that, it looks like we’re going to need a mask because without the mask, we’re not going to get the economy," he said.