State leaders dodge mask mandate controversy

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is continuing to stay mum on the politically charged topic of a statewide mask mandate.

SALT LAKE CITY – It appears that Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox will be able to continue to avoid facing the music on the hot-button issue of face masks.

Herbert has been quick to approve requests from local officials to mandate mask wearing. Those requests from Grand, Salt Lake and Summit county officials were previously approved and the Utah Department of Health confirmed today that a similar request from Logan Mayor Holly Daines has also been granted.

But Herbert has rejected numerous appeals to impose a similar mandate on a statewide basis.

Instead, Herbert deferred any decision on imposing more coronavirus restrictions until after Aug. 1. That delay was necessary, the governor says, to see if Utah could decrease its rolling seven-day average of daily COVID-19 cases to fewer than 500.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn now says Utah is close to meeting that goal. On Wednesday, the Utah Department of Health reported 339 positive COVID-19 tests, the lowest daily case count since June 16. That puts the state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases at 511.

On the gubernatorial campaign trail, Democratic candidate of Chris Peterson has challenged Herbert and Cox to put public health ahead of political considerations by imposing a statewide mask mandate. Peterson has been particularly insistent that Cox take a stand on the politically charged issue of face masks.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that face masks are one of the most effective strategies we have for controlling the virus and restarting our economy …” the University of Utah professor argues. “So (Cox’) position on that is a relevant topic of discussion in the upcoming election.”

Despite being the head of the state’s COVID-19 Task Force and the GOP nominee to replace Herbert, the lieutenant governor’s response on the topic of mandatory mask wearing is “No Comment.”

Cox has used social media multiple times in recent weeks to implore Utahns to do the right thing by voluntarily wearing masks in public.

“Please, just wear masks,” Cox said in a recent podcast. “Don’t make us make you. Just do it.”

But the gubernatorial candidate has refused to say whether he supports a statewide mask order.

In response to numerous media queries on the issue, the Cox campaign will only say that the lieutenant governor is continuing his policy of not politicizing the state’s efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The crux of the mandatory mask issue is the possibility a statewide mandate would alienate Cox’ mostly rural and conservative political base.

Statewide mask mandates have been imposed in 30 states so far, but Herbert and Cox seem determined to avoid the issue at all costs.

The governor has ordered that face coverings be worn in all state buildings and in pubic K-12 schools. But he continues to argue that decisions about mask mandates are best made at city and county level.

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  • Mike Childs July 30, 2020 at 2:10 pm Reply

    Leadership. It’s a noun. The action of leading a group of people or an organization.

    As someone who voted for Donald Trump and most of our state leaders, I’m mad, embarrassed, and regret that I didn’t make a better decision with my vote.

    Leadership starts from the top down. President Trump has let us down, over and over. By NOT making decisive decisions and instead letting local leaders fall on the their swords, he’s shown cowardly behavior. Instead of worrying about people’s health and safety, he’s shown that he worries about votes – and that’s about it. I hope people who share my same views and beliefs won’t fall for his routine again. I don’t especially love the alternative, but I know one thing – he’s not a coward. There is plenty that the Obama administration did that I didn’t agree with – but I’m smart enough to know that it was at least done for the greater good.

    This virus has definitely shown people’s true character and abilities. My hope is that, come November, we can all make decisions without emotion and rather with the long term health and well being of our fellow citizens – regardless of political party. We need to come together. It’s time to show the world what American is really about. We used to lead – now we are a laughing stock.

    And that started from the top down.

  • Lex July 30, 2020 at 11:11 pm Reply

    Mike, President Trump isn’t a dictator. That’s good leadership of a free world when you allow each state to decide for themselves. It’s our state and local (I’m from Logan) leaders who have failed us. They should trust people to decide for themselves through careful and thorough study and investigation of the facts that are out there. More people just needs to be better informed of the true facts that are at out fingertips. And yes the facts I have come up with are not conspiracy theories, they are backed up by studies and science.

    The masks do more harm than good and I refuse to have my child wear one for over 6 hours a day in the public schools system as he breaths in his own toxins and carbon dioxide which is damaging to his health.
    Just google it!

    The Covid numbers that we are fed every day can not be trusted. People who haven’t even gotten the tests are getting notices that they tested positive for the virus. The numbers are terribly inflated in both the cases as well as the deaths. I’ve found numerous youtube videos showing this to be true!

    Please just inform yourselves and stop believing the fake news and politicians!

  • Mike Childs July 31, 2020 at 8:24 am Reply

    I agree with you that there are plenty of things that should be decided on a state level – a pandemic of this size is surely not one of those. And as a medical doctor who has been working on patience both locally and in other states for nearly 70 a week for the past 6 months, the virus is real. This isn’t to be shrugged off with “fake news”. I’ve witnessed, firsthand, the helplessness and desperation.

    We home school already. So I can’t speak to sending my children back. But if it were in my hands, I’d start school over zoom and not take undue risk with our youth and those that are around them (that’s the true risk).

    As for the masks – I don’t know how this ever came an argument or a problem. I wear one most of the day, everyday. Not an issue. Anyway…I guess agree to disagree.

    Good luck!

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