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Utah governor reverses course, issues mask mandate

Posted at 10:39 AM, Nov 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-09 12:39:47-05

This article was written by Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News.

Saying the time for debate has passed, Utah’s Republican governor has reversed course and imposed a statewide mask mandate.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced the new state of emergency late Sunday night.

The orders included a two-week pause on school extracurricular activities, but not high school championships and intercollegiate sports, the Associated Press reported. “Casual social gatherings” will be limited to household members, the AP reported.

The mask mandate will go into effect Monday, and will remain in place “for the foreseeable future,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

In Utah, like Idaho, coronavirus case numbers and hospitalization rates are rising, placing pressure on the states’ health care systems.

On Oct. 26, Gov. Brad Little tightened some of Idaho’s coronavirus restrictions, in an attempt to slow the spread through casual social gatherings. In the ensuing two weeks, Idaho’s case numbers have not slowed — and the state reported a record number of new cases Saturday.

Little has long resisted a statewide mask mandate — instead appealing to Idahoans to act responsibly and saying local mask mandates will be more effective and better received. Members of the state’s Disaster Medical Advisory Committee last week sent Little a letter urging a statewide approach.

On Monday, Little spokeswoman Marissa Morrison Hyer continued to advocate for local decision-making.

“Gov. Little believes it is critical that we each choose to wear a mask to protect our neighbors and loved ones, and to keep our economy and schools open,” Hyer said. “Idahoans value local control and the local approach to addressing important issues. Idaho law gives the authority to our mayors, health district boards and counties to set rules for public health. The governor will continue to support those local leaders who make tough decisions to protect our at-risk citizens. Gov. Little continues to have robust discussions with community leaders and the medical community about communicating to Idahoans the effectiveness of wearing masks to stop the spread and win the fight against COVID-19.”

Thirteen states have no mask requirements, Newsweek reported Monday. All 13 states have reported rising coronavirus case rates. And all 13 states have Republican governors, Newsweek reported.