Utah House passes Senate resolution banning mask mandates in 2 counties

PROMO Health - Mask Child Mother COVID-19 Coronavirus People Family - iStock - vlada_maestro
Published Sunday, January 23, 2022
by Kim Jarrett | The Center Square

(The Center Square) - The Utah House passed a Senate resolution Friday that stopped mask mandates in Salt Lake and Summit counties.

The vote was 45-29 for Senate Joint Resolution 3 as 12 Republicans sided with Democrats in opposition.

Utah law states joint resolutions do not need the governor's signature, making the resolution effective immediately upon the signature of the Senate president and House speaker, who signed it shortly after the House approved it Friday. 

Mask mandates have caused increased polarization and public distrust, Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, said when introducing the resolution.

"The most basic unit of local control is families and individuals," Pierucci said. "Overturning these government mandates is returning the decision-making power back to the people, back to individuals."

Rep. Ashlee Matthews, D-Salt Lake City, said her constituents want the mask mandate.

"I have a plea for my colleagues and my friends here to consider who will be impacted by lifting this mandate," Matthews said. "It's the working class people who rely on their ability to congregate and to interact with with the public in order to do their jobs to earn their livelihood and to feed their families." 

Aimee Winder Newton, a Republican member of the Salt Lake County Council, supported the mask mandate. She said state lawmakers asked her to change her vote.

"As a Republican, I honor local control as a principle of governance," Newton said in a statement posted on Twitter. "It is disappointing that although our county followed the law, the state Legislature still chose to intervene and dismiss the decision we made to protect our residents."

Salt Lake County Mayor Jennifer Wilson encouraged residents to continue to wear masks "in spite of the misguided actions of the Legislature today."

"We are at very high rates of COVID spread and we are hopeful to have the omicron variant of the virus behind us soon," Wilson said in a statement. "Health experts agree masks worn properly help contain the spread of COVID. Let's all help keep our teachers teaching, our students learning, our hospitals operating, and our residents healthy."

The Legislature gave itself the authority to overturn local COVID-19 health orders through Senate Bill 195. Any future mandates from local governments or school systems would go through the same process as SB195 still stands, according to Alexa Roberts, communications manager for the Utah House.

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