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Politics & Government

Utah House Democrats Say The State’s Pandemic Endgame Law Needs An Overhaul Amid COVID-19 Surge

A photo of Utah State Capitol at night.
Brian Albers
/
KUER
The state Legislature passed the endgame legislation in March. It lifted many public health restrictions and gave the final say in instituting new ones to county councils and commissions.

Utah House Democrats are calling on Republicans to change the state’s pandemic “endgame” law which limits how local officials’ can address COVID-19.

The state Legislature passed the legislation in March. It lifted many public health restrictions and gave the final say in instituting new ones to county councils and commissions.

Those changes went into effect in May after the state reached certain case rate, intensive care unit utilization and vaccine distribution levels.

Now, Utah is in the midst of a major COVID-19 surge. Case rates are almost three times as high as the endgame law’s threshold and ICU utilization is about twice as high.

“This is first and foremost a public health issue,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City. “What we'd like to do at the legislative level is basically encourage our colleagues to get out of the way. We got in the way when we passed the endgame bill and we stayed in the way during the special session.”

During a special session in May, the Legislature passed a bill that prevents school districts from issuing their own mask mandates. Local public health officials can institute mask mandates in schools, but county councils and commissions can override them.

Republican House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President Stuart Adams declined to comment. But Adams told the Salt Lake Tribune last week that the process set up by those laws is “working right now.

Gov. Spencer Cox met with the House and Senate last week to discuss ways to address the current COVID-19 surge. Adams told KUER Cox didn't bring any specific suggestions to the meeting with Senate Republicans.

Adams said one of the Senate's recommendations was increasing the availability of a treatment called monoclonal antibodies. As for more public health restrictions, he said they didn’t discuss them. The governor’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on the meeting.

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