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

Coronavirus Utah

AURORA, CO - DECEMBER 15: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center investigat...
Jed Boal, KSL TV

Pfizer booster shot is now approved for children 5-11, here’s what a doctor advises

The CDC now recommends Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots for children ages five to 11. But, a leading pediatric epidemiologist suggests some parents may want to wait based on their summer plans.
2 days ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
Eliza Pace, KSL TV

COVID-19 cases on the rise in Utah, State Department of Health says

The Utah Department of Health and Human Services are seeing an increase of COVID-19 cases across the state as well as an increase in hospitalizations.
3 days ago
CDC Covid Community Map Levels as of May 18th, 2022. (Credit: CDC)...
Michael Houck, KSL TV

Summit County is considered ‘medium risk’ for COVID-19 by the CDC

The CDC list Summit County as the only "yellow" risk county in Utah for COVID-19, breaking Utah's all green risk status. 
4 days ago
The lawn of Timpanogos Regional Hospital was adorned with flags to honor the lives lost to COVID-19...
Ashley Moser, KSL TV

Hospital ceremony honors survivors, healthcare heroes as U.S. hits one million COVID-19 deaths

The lawn of Timpanogos Regional Hospital was adorned with flags to honor the lives lost to COVID-19, those who survived it, and the caregivers and healthcare workers who cared for the sick.
5 days ago
Ladd Egan, KSL TV

Mixed results for food drive while demand for assistance stays high

After a two-year break because of the pandemic, the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive returned on Saturday with mixed results.
6 days ago
The Conference Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City for a yo...
Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL TV

Young adults pack Conference Center, overflow seating with largest crowds since pandemic

Thousands gathered at the Conference Center and overflow seating in Temple Square for a big event that hasn’t taken place with this many people in-person, since before the start of the pandemic.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Make Money Online Easily...

4 Ways that You Can Make Money Online Easily in Just a Few Clicks

Here are 4 ways that you can make money online easily in no time at all! Some are as simple as just a few clicks away.
tips to winterize your home...
Bonneville Digital SLC

Tips to Winterize Your Home | The Top 5 Ways You Can Prepare for the Cold Utah Winter Ahead

Before the snow hits, here are the top 5 tips to winterize your home to prepare for the cold Utah winter this year.
Gov. Cox Supports ‘Encouragement’ Of Unvaccinated Students To Mask Up