‘Continue to get back to normal’: Governor says he will sign school mask mandate ban

ST. GEORGE — Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday that he will sign the bill passed by the state Legislature that prohibits any new mask mandate in schools.

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at Cedar City Rotary Club luncheon, Cedar City, Utah, May 17, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Cox made his comments in Salt Lake City during the taping of his monthly PBS Utah Governor’s Press Conference program. The governor said his support of the bill comes from his pledge that come this fall, students won’t have to wear masks in school. 

“The virus is continuing to decline, and we have younger people with the opportunity to get the vaccine,” Cox said, adding that the youngest children who don’t currently qualify to get the vaccine aren’t likely to head to the hospital because of it. “The risk for hospitalization and deaths in elementary schools is very, very low. This is an area where it looks like the flu.”

During the debate of the Face Covering Requirements bill, designated HB 1007, which was passed in a special session of the Legislature on Wednesday, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem, said county officials would still be able to invoke mask orders in consultation with local health officials in schools that have COVID-19 outbreaks. He said the legislation only applies to COVID-19 and would not prevent people from wearing face coverings.

“At some point this has to end,” Peterson said. “What this bill is really about is making sure we have those assurances to our students that they can go forward next fall and get right into the school year without the thought of masks and what that might mean.” 

Cedar City-based Sen. Evan Vickers, who acted as the floor sponsor of the bill in the Senate, was unavailable for comment.

Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, said that waiting to require masks until an outbreak occurs could still put children’s lives at risk.

A young recipient received the COVID-19 vaccine at the Southwest Utah Public Health Department’s Cedar City office on May 17, 2021. Cedar City, Utah | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“For me, a single dead child is a child too many,” she said. “The problem with the way this is set up is, absent an actual outbreak, we can’t ask students to wear masks, and the whole point of a mask is to prevent an outbreak.”

According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there have not been any pediatric COVID-19 patients at St. George Regional Hospital since the week of Oct. 16, when there were several. 

The text of the measure says that a state or local school board or an institution of higher learning cannot “require an individual to wear a face covering to attend or participate in in-person instruction.”  It doesn’t have language precluding the governor from doing the same.

The text of the bill also doesn’t allow any institution of learning to require students to provide proof of being vaccinated against COVID-19 unless it also allows for medical and religious exemptions. It also doesn’t allow a school district to stop in-person instruction unless “the governor, the president of the Senate, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and the state superintendent of public instruction jointly concur” with the school board. 

“If there is a change in circumstances, we do have the ability to make changes,” Cox said. 

Current state of COVID-19 in Southern Utah

Overall, the state and Southern Utah continue to be seeing a reduction in new COVID-19 infections this week, according to the Utah Department of Health. 

Map shows the current level of each county in Utah according to the COVID-19 Transmission Index provided by the Utah Department of Health as of May 20, 2021. | Photo courtesy Utah Department of Health, St. George News | Click to enlarge

One of the exceptions continues to be Iron County, which remains the only county in the southern portion of the state not to be at a low level of COVID-19 transmission. 

Iron County remains among the top four counties in the state for both percentage of population with active COVID-19 cases (seven-day average of 200.59 cases per 100,000) and positive COVID-19 tests (6.54%).

That’s more than double Washington County, which has twice the population and a seven-day average of 91.24 and 3.15% positive tests.   

Deaths have been also on the decline locally and skewing younger, with the Utah Department of Health reporting the passing of a 25- to 44-year-old Washington County man Thursday as the 272nd person to die of COVID-19 in Southern Utah.

Regardless, the governor said he does not think the Centers for Disease Control rushed new guidance last week: that those who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing. 

“I’m not worried that we’re moving too quickly. It’s funny to me those who said believe the science before aren’t now,” Cox said. “We do need to continue to get back to normal.”

Associated Press writer SOPHIA EPPOLITO contributed to this story. 

For a complete list of contacts for Southern Utah representatives and senators, click here.

Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2021 Utah Legislature here.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Those who can currently get first dose of the vaccine: Everyone ages 12 and over. Those 12-18 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine. Use vaccinefinder.org to find clinics that have the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Those who can receive the second dose: Those who received their first injection 28 days or more before the appointment time.
  • Must register in advance online for an appointment time, though some pharmacies are offering walk-up appointments.
  • Must wear a short-sleeve shirt at appointment and should have a personal ID.
  • Proof of residency may be required, though a person does not have to reside in the county they are receiving the vaccine. Part-time residents can get vaccinated with proof of residency.
  • Vaccines are free of charge.
  • Those without email addresses or unable to make reservations online can get help at a specialized hotline at 435-986-2549.
  • To get alerts for when new vaccine appointments are added with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, text SWUHEALTH to 888777.
  • To receive a free ride to and from a vaccine appointment through Lyft, call 211.
  • Busineses, organizations and religious institutions can have a mobile vaccination clinic come to their campus free of charge by going to either this link or call the Southwest Utah Public Health Department at (435) 673-3528.

Washington County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department St. George office, 620 S. 400 East, St George

Reservations: Click to register 

Iron County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Cedar City office, 260 DL Sargent Dr., Cedar City, 84721.

Reservations: Click to register 

Kane County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Kanab office, 445 N. Main St., Kanab.

Reservations: Click to register 

Garfield County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Panguitch office, 601 Center St., Panguitch.

Reservations: Click to register

Beaver County:

Where: Southwest Utah Public Health Department Beaver Office,  75 1175 North, Beaver.

Reservations: Click to register

St. George Regional Hospital/Intermountain Healthcare:

Where: 400 East Campus St. George Regional Hospital,  544 S. 400 East, St. George.

Reservations: Click to register

FourPoints Health:

Where: Various locations.

Reservations: Click to register

Revere Health:

Where: Revere Health Campus,  2825 E. Mall Drive, St. George.

Reservations: Click to register

Rocky Vista University:

Where: Rocky Vista University – Southern Utah Campus,  255 E. Center St. in Ivins.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 745 N Dixie Dr in St. George and 915 Red Cliffs Dr. in Washington City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 1189 E. 700 South in St. George and 3520 Pioneer Parkway in Santa Clara.

Reservations: Click to register

Lin’s Marketpace:

Where: 1930 W. Sunset Blvd.  and 2928 E. Mall Drive in St. George, 1120 State St. in Hurricane and 150 N Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register

Smith’s Food and Drug:

Where: 20 N. Bluff St. and 565 S. Mall Drive in St. George and 633 S. Main St. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Click to register


Where: 275 S River Rd. in St. George.

Reservations: Walk-ins available. Otherwise, click to register


Where: 2610 Pioneer Rd. in St. George, 625 W. Telegraph St. in Washington City, 180 N. 3400 West in Hurricane and 1330 S. Providence Center Dr. in Cedar City.

Reservations: Walk-ins available. Otherwise, click to register

Family pharmacies:

Where: Several locations

Reservations: Use vaccinefinder.org to find a location near you

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

Check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.


Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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