Despite having the highest COVID-19 rate in Utah, Grand County’s local mask mandate automatically terminated, along with most state and local public health orders, as the state hits “endgame” benchmarks outlined in state legislation passed in March.
Private businesses and local government buildings may continue to require a facemask; the change does not affect K-12 school mask regulations.
On Tuesday, the Utah Department of Health announced that the state met the three qualifications outlined in HB 294: Utah’s 14-day case rate is less than 191 per 100,000 people, the seven-day average of intensive care unit usage due to COVID-19 is under 15%, and 1,633,000 prime doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been secured by the state.
Under the law, orders requiring facemasks, physical distancing and limits on special events imposed by state and local health departments automatically expired when those statewide metrics were met.
“Unfortunately, they're not local triggers whatsoever and we have quite a COVID situation going on,” said County Attorney Christina Sloan at the May 4 Grand County Commission meeting.
As of May 4, the Southeast Utah Health Department reported 126 active cases in Grand County, which translates to a case rate of 1307 cases per 100,000 people; for Emery County, that statistic is 69 and for Carbon County it’s 74.
Proportionally, Grand has the highest transmission numbers in the state, even as statewide COVID-19 numbers are dropping. No current hospitalizations are reported in Grand County.
Sloan noted that there may be an option for the county to pursue extending the mask mandate through an avenue not covered by HB 294, but she said it would be an uphill battle, and one that may not be worth fighting.
With the expiration of a blanket mandate, government entities and private businesses may still require masks and social distancing on their premises. In an email, Sloan said Grand County will continue to require masks on all county property and in all county departments.
Under an order from Gov. Spencer Cox, state-owned buildings will continue to require masks until May 31. HB 294 does not affect public health orders pertaining to K-12 schools and officials have confirmed that the mask mandate for schools will continue through June 1.
Those who show any symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to get tested at Moab Regional Hospital or through the Southeast Utah Health Department. To talk to a nurse about symptoms and schedule a test or a vaccination appointment, call the Moab Regional Hospital COVID-19 hotline at 435-719-3998 or go to www.seuhealth.com