Gov. Cox Supports ‘Encouragement’ Of Unvaccinated Students To Mask Up

Aug 3, 2021, 12:51 PM | Updated: 6:26 pm

MIDVALE, Utah — As some school districts in Utah near the first week of the 2021-22 school year, the debate about masks is lingering as Utah’s recent rise in COVID-19 cases has some hospitals filling up ICUs.

The latest recommendation from the Utah Department of Health is students age 12 and older should get vaccinated and students should wear masks when indoors.

Gov. Spencer Cox said he supports encouraging people who are not vaccinated to wear masks in schools, adding that encouraging is different than a mandate.

“The recommendation is if you’re not unvaccinated, you should wear a mask,” Cox said at a press conference Tuesday. “We support encouraging people to wear masks in school. That is different than a mandate.”

Cox doesn’t have the executive power to create a mandate after the Utah Legislature passed HB294 in March. He made it clear he believes Utahns need to get vaccinated, and frankly, he’s tired of wearing a mask for those “who don’t seem to care.”

“I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t know if I’m one of those people,” Cox said. “I’m really tired. I’m really done with it. And I’m not real excited to have to sacrifice to protect someone who doesn’t seem to care. But I’m glad there are some people willing to do that. Thank you.”

While talking about children wearing masks though, Cox pointed out it has challenged younger elementary students in ways we may not have initially thought.

“Every single kindergarten and first-grade teacher I have talked to will tell you there is an impact on the development of young children by wearing masks in schools,” Cox said. “Their ability to read, their verbal and cognitive skills were slowed down by wearing the masks. Even CDC guidelines last year said there should be exceptions made.”

Cox said he has a concern about students getting sick in schools and taking the virus home to unvaccinated family members.
However, he said it should be a decision that families think about because for younger students, it’s “not a transaction without consequences.”

“Families and parents are going to have to weigh their decisions,” Cox said.

It’s not in Cox’s hands to determine who wears masks after the state’s mask mandate ended — that now falls to local governments and health departments.

Parents and school staff who have questions about how COVID-19 will be handled in their school or at extracurricular activities should contact their local health department or school for more information.

Cox also said he has directed his team to obtain an N95 mask for each Utah student age 11 and under.

School Districts Working With Local Health Depts. To Create New Guidelines

Under the recommendations, local health departments will work with schools within their jurisdiction to review the state’s recommendations and then create prevention strategies for their area.

“School administrators will watch the data on what is happening in their local areas as they work to keep children in schools as safely as possible,” said the K-12 recommendations.

On Tuesday, officials with the Washington County School District said they were working closely with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department and had formulated guidelines for the upcoming school year, which starts Aug. 12.

“For the 2021-22 school year, masks will not be required. Students and staff will be welcome to wear masks if they choose, but they will not be required,” the district said. “Bullying standards will be strictly enforced as students and parents choose whether or not to wear masks at school.”

A spokesperson for the district said that there was frustration last year about the lack of local control over COVID-19 guidelines.

“If you’re going to say local control, provide us local control,” said Steven Dunham, director of communications for the Washington County School District. “That way we’re not the middle man in here and we can just own what decisions we’re going to make.”

Dunham said masks will just be an option in his district, while in the Salt Lake City School District, masks will be strongly recommended.

“If you are planning to be inside a school building this year in the Salt Lake City School District, we strongly recommend that you wear a mask while you’re inside,” said Yándary Chatwin, executive director of communications for the Salt Lake City School District. “If you don’t have one we will provide one for you.”

Chatwin said the mask recommendation applies to employees, teachers, students and visitors — regardless of vaccination status.

“We don’t want this to become a battle of who’s vaccinated and who’s not,” Chatwin said. “So the blanket recommendation for everybody to mask is an attempt to, again, follow the science, but also to make sure we aren’t getting into those personal attacks inside our school buildings.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Back to School

remote learning after snow storm...
Katija Stjepovic, KSL TV

Canyons School District quickly switched to remote learning after Friday’s snowstorm

Friday’s early morning storm impacted multiple school districts across the Wasatch Front. Several districts adjusted start times and some even canceled classes.
2 months ago
This week KSL+ looks at what school districts describe as “chronic absenteeism” in Utah’s sch...
Matt Rascon

KSL+: The Impact of pandemic and “chronic absenteeism” in Utah schools

Months into the new school year, the pandemic’s impact on students is coming into focus.
3 months ago
A school classroom with chairs and desks...
Brooke Williams

Project to provide air purifiers in Utah K-12 classrooms

Cleaner air improves student performance, decreases COVID transmission and school absenteeism. New project provides air purifiers for classrooms in Utah.
5 months ago
Deanie Wimmer

Chronic Absenteeism leads to rise in F grades in most of Utah’s largest school districts

Schools all over Utah are dealing with the problem of chronic absenteeism. Educators are seeing thousands of absences, and as a result, failing grades.
5 months ago
Box Elder High School (KSL TV)...
Eliza Pace

In excessive heat, some districts without A/C move to half days to spare students

With record-breaking, three-digit temperatures and older schools without air conditioning, two districts and one additional high school have announced changes to a half-day schedule to accommodate students.
5 months ago
Shara Park

Taylorsville High Wellness Center sees more students in need of basic items

Taylorsville High created a wellness center to give kids a break, however over the course of the year staff saw an increasing need for basic supplies like food, clothing, and hygiene products.
5 months ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Gov. Cox Supports ‘Encouragement’ Of Unvaccinated Students To Mask Up