Gov. Spencer Cox is expected to sign a bill that would lift the statewide mask mandate on April 10. It also sets certain benchmarks for ending other public health orders — or they will be lifted July 1, whichever comes first.
“The whole idea was, we’re looking at numbers that are declining, and numbers are looking really good," said Rep Paul Ray (R-Clearfield), who sponsored the bill. "So the idea was, lets give the public something to look forward to."
There are benchmarks for lifting certain other public health orders, the biggest of which, Ray said, has to do with vaccinations.
“The third one is the big one, and that’s 1.633 million doses allocated to the state of Utah," Ray said. "That means that we basically have the vaccines to get them in the arms of everybody that wants them."
As of today, the state has administered more than 857,000 vaccines. 2News asked Ray how the April 10 and July 1 dates were chosen.
“There’s certainly some research behind that," Ray said. "and this was negotiating with the state health department, and with the governor’s office."
Ray says April 10 came as a compromise.
“I wanted it to be right away. The governor wanted it in May," Ray said. "As we kind of talked through the numbers of the doses we’re looking to have in the state, and the numbers that they can get in people’s arms, the feeling was that middle part of April was probably sooner than the governor wants, and it’s a lot later than I want. But we think it’s a number that we both agreed on that we out to be in a pretty good situation statewide with vaccines when those masks come off."
Though the governor expects the vaccine to be available to all Utahns by April 1, he says not everyone will be vaccinated by the time the mask mandate would be lifted.
2News asked Dr. Emily Spivak, an infectious disease physician with University of Utah Health, when doses start to take effect.
“Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine, about 14 days after the second dose are both 95%, it looks like, effective at preventing COVID-19 illness," Spivak said.
And for Johnson & Johnson, which is one shot, Dr. Spivak said:
“We’re saying probably 14 days after the shot, but there’s different measurements at seven, 14, 28, I think even 49 days after the shot, and the efficacy tends to hold, but increases as you go out."
And, Spivak says, there is evidence to show Moderna and Pfizer provide a level of protection after the first shot, and before receiving the second.
Ray’s bill putting an end to the mask mandate April 10 has passed, and he says the date represents a compromise with the health department, lawmakers, and the governor.
“You know, we obviously pushed each other and there was some tension, but I think in the end we were good partners and I think we came up with a pretty good policy," Ray said.
The governor has not signed the bill yet, but he did indicate Friday he will likely sign it. There would still be some exceptions. Masks would be required at mass gatherings and in schools.