SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox tells FOX 13 he will not oppose Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall's emergency order to implement a mask mandate.
Despite the COVID-19 "endgame" law going into effect on Saturday that lifts the statewide mask mandate, Mayor Mendenhall this week exercised what she said was her emergency powers to extend a face covering requirement for Salt Lake City.
In an interview with FOX 13 in Blanding, where he was visiting Bears Ears National Monument, the governor was asked about the mayor's decision. Gov. Cox said he did not have an opinion on the legality of the mayor's decision, but also was not going to oppose it.
"I don’t think it matters because we’re all getting there, getting to the end of this and we’re trying to keep people safe," the governor said. "I recognize the mayor and what she’s trying to do in wanting to keep people safe and again, she has that prerogative to do that."
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, who sponsored the "endgame" bill that lifts the mask mandate, questioned her legal power to do so. However, he said he would not seek to challenge Mayor Mendenhall in court.
Gov. Cox has been somewhat critical of the legislation, despite signing it into law. He has defended his action, saying that members of the Utah State Legislature sought to lift the mask mandate immediately as the state was racing to get people vaccinated.
The bill lifts health restrictions including gathering and business capacity limits as COVID-19 cases decline and vaccinations increase. But its most controversial provision has been lifting the statewide mask mandate on April 10. It does allow county governments to issue their own mask mandates. So far, Grand County is the only one to do so.
Private businesses also have the ability to require masks of their customers. Gov. Cox said he would continue to wear a mask and urged Utahns to keep them on until more people are vaccinated. Utah Dept. of Health figures showed that roughly 27% of the state's vaccine eligible population is now fully vaccinated.
"I will continue wearing a mask until I’m fully vaccinated and the people I’m around are fully vaccinated because I want to protect them and avoid getting the coronavirus," Gov. Cox told FOX 13. "Again, mask mandates does not mean no masks. I think that’s a mistake we make. So we still encourage people even when the mask mandate goes away to be safe and wear masks, get vaccinated and then we can’t wait for all of us to get rid of our masks soon."