MOAB, Utah — As customers line up to order coffee and sandwiches at the very popular Moab Garage Co., they keep six feet apart and wear masks.
“We really try to accommodate everybody. We want everyone to feel welcome in our space,” said Erin Bird, one of the Moab Garage Co.’s owners. “So if they don’t want to put a mask on, we take care of them outside.”
A large window is open facing Moab’s heavily trafficked Main Street to take orders from the street.
While the rest of Utah will drop its mask mandate on April 10, the day the “COVID-19 endgame” law takes effect, Grand County will keep theirs in place.
“We decided to continue it for about the same reasons we started,” Grand County Commission Chair Mary McGann said in an interview Friday with FOX 13.
The Moab area is one of Utah’s biggest tourist destinations, bringing in millions of people every year to visit Arches and Canyonlands national parks, state parks and other recreation spots.
“We host over three million people a year. It’s huge for a county of 9,000 people. Our hospital is small, we don’t have an ICU,” said Chair McGann. “If we had an outbreak in Moab, it would be a crisis quickly and this is a simple way to prevent the spread without inconveniencing people. It’s a shame it became a political issue.”
The Utah State Legislature passed a bill, nicknamed by its sponsor the “COVID-19 endgame,” designed to lift health restrictions on gatherings and businesses as virus cases decline and vaccines increase. But its most controversial provision lifts the statewide mask mandate on April 10.
The bill did allow county governments to opt to issue their own mandates. Grand County is the only one to do it — extending its existing mask mandate until June 15. Chair McGann said she certainly would love to lift it sooner as Utah emerges from the pandemic.
“The citizens of Grand County on the whole have always supported it,” she told FOX 13 of the mask mandate. “It’s one of the few things I’ve done I received a lot of thank yous for!”
In Utah’s most populous county, the Salt Lake County Council opted not to issue a mask mandate. However, Mayor Jenny Wilson issued a face covering requirement for all county-owned facilities.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall exercised emergency powers to issue a mask mandate covering all of Utah’s capital city. Questions have been raised about whether she has the legal authority to do it, but Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, the sponsor of the “endgame” bill, said he would not challenge her in court.
In an interview with FOX 13, Governor Spencer Cox said he would not opine on the legality of Mayor Mendenhall’s move, but did not oppose it.
“I don’t think it matters because we’re all getting there, getting to the end of this and we’re trying to keep people safe,” the governor said. “I recognize the mayor and what she’s trying to do in wanting to keep people and again, she has that prerogative to do that.”
The governor has separately issued a mask mandate for all state-run facilities. It includes places like Capitol Hill, liquor stores and driver license offices.
Bird said she supported Grand County’s decision.
“I think it’s a good thing to do for now, just given the amount of visitors that we see throughout the year,” she said. “It makes our staff feel more comfortable in this space and it’s one thing that’s important to us.”