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'We would rather play it safe': Some local businesses keep mask requirements as COVID-19 cases surge

Posted at 9:50 PM, Jan 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-22 23:50:19-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Even as Utah hit more than 11,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and Friday, the Utah State Legislature decided to terminate the mask mandate in both Salt Lake and Summit counties.

But the removal of the mandate hasn't kept some businesses from continuing to require masks inside of their venues.

The Green Pig Pub in Salt Lake City has a sign on their door saying face masks are required.

"We would rather play it safe than to have people get sick again, especially our employees and the people who come in here," said Tiffani Thatcher, general manager at the Green Pig.

Thatcher says all 45 of her employees and those who step in the door must wear masks.

"We have limited our seating to just to be having seated people. They have to have a seat to be in here, or unless they are actively drinking or eating, they are required to wear their mask," she said. "Basically sitting at a table, they don’t have to wear it."

Thatcher says that means about 80-85 people can be inside at one time. Normally, she says, full capacity would be 250 people, if the patio was open.

This comes after the state legislature voted to wipe away the mandate, as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Utah and across the United States.

READ: Over 11,000 COVID-19 cases reported Friday in Utah; 11 new deaths

A study released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the omicron variant accounts for more than 99 percent of coronavirus cases in the U.S.

"It is literally a crisis — not just for the health care workers that are overworked, but for all patients who potentially need to be admitted to a hospital and cared for," said Dr. Jay Jacobson, an emeritus professor at the University of Utah.

That CDC study also details the importance of booster shots. It says getting boosted was 90 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations over the past two months, when omicron has been considered the dominant variant.

That's why Jacobson, who specializes in infectious diseases, says it is imperative that people get their booster shot and wear a mask.

"Even with what was considered full vaccination or two doses, protection against omicron has not been as good as we had hoped, but with a booster dose, it becomes excellent," he said. "Anybody who is worried about transmitting an aerosol-dependent respiratory virus would be wise to wear a mask."

Thatcher says her employees and even customers have been thankful that they've continued to take safety precautions.

"I haven’t had anybody complain about it," she said. "The customers are grateful, obviously we are full, so it is not hurting us."

Thatcher says they are going to see how things work over the next few weeks before deciding if any changes to their mask requirement will be made.