During the 2021 General Session, the Legislature passed H.B. 294 Pandemic Emergency Powers Amendments. This bill addresses the end of certain COVID-19-related emergency powers and public health orders once the state reaches thresholds involving case rates, intensive care capacity and vaccine doses.
In order to end particular emergency powers and public health orders, H.B 294 establishes that the state’s 14-day case rate fall below 191 per 100,000 people, intensive care units are no more than 15 percent filled with COVID-19 patients over a seven-day period, and the federal government allocates 1,633,000 first doses of the coronavirus vaccine to Utah. Emergency powers and public health orders will end when the threshold is met or on July 1, 2021.
H.B. 249 also establishes April 10, 2021, as the end of Utah’s mask mandate. Masks would still be required in schools and in gatherings over 50 people. Local health departments would also be allowed to require face coverings with approval from county commissions or councils. Private businesses could still require masks.
The thresholds in the bill were created with current vaccination efforts in mind. Before the vaccine was available, emergency powers and public health orders were set in place to protect Utahns. However, with the increased vaccination efforts of the state, these restrictions can be safely lifted.
As of March 9, 2021, 556, 791 Utahns received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including the majority of Utah’s 70+ population who are most vulnerable. By prioritizing 70+ for the vaccine, Utah’s fatality rate has dramatically decreased.
With these individuals now having received the vaccine, emergency powers and statewide public health orders can safely end, and local control can be enacted to protect the individualized needs of communities. Under H.B. 249, the governor and the Department of Health would still be able to issue public health orders related to the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
By ending certain emergency powers and public health orders, businesses can open at full capacity and industries that have remained closed can now reopen in a safe and monitored environment.
COVID-19 was uncharted territory for everyone, and as we begin to reach the end of the pandemic, this bill will assist the state in safely returning to life as normal. H.B. 294 establishes a procedure to safely lift regulations placed over the last year, ensuring lives and livelihoods remain protected.