Provo mask mandate repealed after new state COVID-19 guidelines released

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Provo City Council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance amendment repealing requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic on Oct. 20. The council said that Provo will follow Utah’s COVID-19 guidelines.

The Provo City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to rescind Provo’s COVID-19 restrictions in favor of the state’s new COVID-19 guidelines.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced during a press conference on Oct. 13 that the state would adopt a new plan to stop the spread of COVID-19. Counties are now classified as areas of either high, medium, or low transmission levels based on their case rates, positivity rates and ICU utilization. The level for each county is updated every Thursday on Utah’s coronavirus website. 

Utah County is currently in the high transmission category. In the high level, masks are required in public indoor spaces and outside when social distancing is not possible, and informal social gatherings can’t be larger than ten people. 

When the Provo City Council passed a citywide mask mandate on Aug. 27, the ordinance was set to automatically expire on Nov.15 if they didn’t renew it. The council had agreed to discuss renewing the ordinance during its meeting on Oct. 20.

The council unanimously voted to repeal the citywide mandate and adopt the new state guidelines at their council meeting on Oct. 20. While both the state and city mandates require individuals to wear masks in Provo, council members wanted to repeal the city mandate in order to avoid confusion and because the state mandate is stricter than the city mandate. 

“This isn’t just that we’re deferring to the state, but that we strongly support what the state has proposed and we are strongly embracing it,” council member David Harding said. “We do call on all individuals and businesses to follow the state guidelines.”

“I applaud Provo City Council for eliminating confusion for our citizens by repealing their mask mandate to follow the state’s new COVID-19 health order,” Mayor Michelle Kaufusi tweeted after the meeting. “This action creates a unity between Provo City, Utah County, and the State of Utah that will better protect community health.”

Council member Shannon Ellsworth said the council’s greatest intent is to protect the public health of the community, and she thought that could best be accomplished with the state’s more restrictive guidelines. Provo’s mandate allowed for gatherings of more than 50 people, while the state mandate limits gatherings to 10 people. 

Council member George Handley said if the state guidelines changed or if there was another spike of COVID-19 cases in Provo and they didn’t receive guidance from the state, the council would act accordingly.

“This is not an abdication of our own responsibility or any expression of a change of heart about the seriousness of the pandemic,” Handley said. “We, as a council, should be ready to act if necessary to protect our citizens.”

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