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Salt Lake, Summit counties issue mask mandates amid surge

January 8, 2022 GMT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two Utah counties have issued indoor mask mandates amid a record-setting surge of coronavirus cases that has left long testing lines, shortages of monoclonal antibody treatments and strained hospital staff.

Salt Lake County health officials made the order Friday, a day after Summit county. Both cover schools and require masks regardless of vaccination status.

Utah law allows county governments to overturn mask mandates and the county around Utah’s capital has done so in the past, but Health Department Executive Director Dr. Angela Dunn told the Salt Lake Tribune she doesn’t expect that to happen this time.

Republican Aimee Winder Newton tweeted her support for the new mandate, saying the data is clear that “we have some difficult times in the coming weeks.” The rule sends a message that “decreased social contact” is necessary to avoid overwhelming hospitals and keep schools and businesses open, she said.

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In Summit County, health officials also expressed concern for front line workers. Health officials are also recommending N95 or similar masks rather than cloth masks.

Leaders in the GOP-dominated legislature, which passed new limits on mask mandates last year, said they “will review” the new orders.

Utah hospital officials said Thursday they are running out of monoclonal antibody treatments, with just a few hundred available statewide amid national shortages.