We've received a ton of questions from our readers after the release of Utah Governor Gary Herbert's requirements that all businesses must have employees wear a covering over their mouth and nose. There is still plenty to clarify in the Governor's order, but we reached out to the Southeast Utah Health Department and Grand County officials to get Moab some answers.
This is a developing story and we're still doing research and contacting state and local officials. We'll update this story as more information becomes available.
On Friday, the Governor released a phased plan for easing restrictions on Utah businesses and declared the state to be in the Orange or "Moderate Risk" phase in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a separate executive order, he changed one aspect of the plan: any place in the document that mentioned mask-wearing for employees should be considered an "order" and not a recommendation.
SEUHD Public Information Officer Brittney Garff and Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan helped clarify what this means for Moab businesses, based on their contact with the newly-formed Utah Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission and the Governor's Office.
Who has to wear a mask at work?
Anyone who is working with customers is required to wear a protective facial covering, even if they are behind a counter or plexiglass. All restaurant employees must wear a facial covering. Right now, it's less clear if other employees are also required to wear masks.
"We are in the process of clarifying application to other types of business that do not interact with the public, such as construction," said Christina Sloan. She indicated that more information would be available early the week of May 4.
The Governor's order requires that businesses provide masks for employees. If an employer can't provide masks, they cannot open for business.
Is everyone required to wear a mask now?
No. While it is strongly recommended that people wear protective face coverings, you are not required to wear a mask when out and about. However, businesses can require their customers to wear masks if that's the store policy.
You also might be required to wear a mask at some businesses considered higher-risk for disease transmission, like a salon or tattoo parlor.
"For personal services like salons the guidance is: Both service provider and client wear face coverings," said SEUHD Public Information Officer Brittney Garff. "This is very important since social distancing is not possible."
What kind of mask do I need?
"To date, the Governor's office has provided no information on what type of face covering is sufficient," said Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan in an email with the Moab Sun News.
"SEUHD considers any face covering that covers your mouth and nose sufficient. Masks are preferred [but] bandana-style coverings are sufficient," she said.
What if a business has employees who work with the public who aren't wearing masks?
The Governor's order was just released days ago, so Garff said that the health department was doing "further outreach with businesses."
However, the "Executive Order is an order, and it is enforceable by the Grand County Sheriff's Office and Attorney's Office," said Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan.
How do I get a mask?
The health department said that officials considered any cloth that covers the nose and mouth to meet the requirements, including a bandanna tied around the face. Cloth masks are becoming available in the area through entrepreneurial residents: Canyonland Quilts and Gallery Moab are both local sources in addition to many local folks easily found on social media.
The state of Utah has also committed to providing masks to the state's households free of charge through "A Mask for Every Utahn"
However, it's important to note that experts say that wearing a facial mask is not a perfect solution to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Public health experts and scientists all stress that continuing to physically distance from others and respect a six-foot distance in public is equally, if not more, important to keeping the community healthy.
"Right now, it’s through the use of masks people can better protect themselves and their neighbors,” SEUHD Environmental Director Orion Rogers said on a call with the Moab Sun News.
“Our culture is not used to masks, and there are many who will only wear one if required,” said Jen Sadoff, Moab Regional Hospital CEO. “Mandating mask usage is very much like a seat belt law. However, instead of saving your own life, wearing a mask saves other lives.”
Do you have a question about recent public health orders? Get in touch with us and we'll try to get it answered. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org