Utah to lift statewide mask order under new law


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Utah will become the latest state to lift its mask mandate on Saturday, the deadline set by a new state law, but the capital city and many businesses will continue requiring masks amid concern about communities still vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic.

Utah will be joining at least 10 other states that have lifted statewide mask orders, including Montana, Wyoming and Texas. In Utah, masks will still be required for schools and gatherings of more than 50 people, and businesses can still choose to require them.

Salt Lake City International Airport, the Utah Transit Authority and the Hogle Zoo are among those that have said they will keep requiring masks and other safety measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Utah counties can require masks in their jurisdictions. Only Grand County, a tourist destination home to Arches and Canyonlands national parks, has done so.

Salt Lake City will continue its mask mandate after the statewide one is lifted, the mayor said Wednesday, though the rest of the county decided not to require masks.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall, a Democrat, said keeping the mandate will protect residents, many of whom have not yet been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Leaders on the Republican-controlled county council, meanwhile, decided to lift their mandate along with the rest of the state. Council Chair Steve DeBry cited public health data indicating many of the most vulnerable residents are vaccinated and hospitals won’t be stressed beyond capacity.

New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Utah had been on a downward trend since January but have recently plateaued. More than 649,000 of the state’s 3.2 million residents have been fully vaccinated, according to state data.

Mendenhall said her decision doesn’t violate a so-called end game law for pandemic restrictions, but its sponsor disagreed. Republican Rep. Paul Ray said it would be a waste of time to sue the city, but he predicted political fallout.

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