Dr. Dunn: Masks, Vaccines Best Way To Prevent Virus Spread

Aug 6, 2021, 9:11 AM | Updated: 9:24 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Weeks out from the start of the new school year, one of Utah’s foremost public health voices in the fight against COVID-19 is urging students to get vaccinated and urging those who are ineligible to mask up.

“I’m nervous about what’s to come in the next several months with COVID,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, former state epidemiologist and current executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department. “We are all, all excited to move past COVID and start working on addressing needs beyond infectious disease here.”

But weeks out from the beginning of school across the state, the focus remains on COVID-19. Dunn explained what the difference is between this year and last year.

“We’ll start with the good,” she said. “The good is that we got the silver bullet. We’ve got the vaccines. They work.”

The challenge, she said, is the delta variant, a more contagious and potentially more severe variant driving up cases across the state and country. Dunn said the state’s COVID-19 case rate is higher now than it was at this time last year. And 20% of the population is under 12 years old and ineligible for the vaccine.

“What keeps me up at night is school starting,” she said. “I think the other thing is how quickly we’re going to peak … It is possible that we have a surge in cases for a couple of months and then with the increase in vaccinations, it drops. But, while that is good news, it’s what happens during those two months of the surges, right? Our hospitals are already overcapacity. What’s going to happen to those who need care for COVID and other things? How many children are going to need to be hospitalized and have long-term effects? Anything we can do to prevent that is really the way forward for the next few months.”

Dunn pointed to last year’s mask mandate issued in Salt Lake County as an example.

“Last fall we were all wearing masks because none of us were vaccinated,” she said. “And in Salt Lake County after the mask mandate, our cases plummeted. We know it works. It stops the spread. So we need to apply that same line of thinking for our kids under 12 when they go back to school.”

But mandating masks comes with its own challenges. Dunn can issue a public health order, but the county council or the legislature can overturn it.

Salt Lake County Board Of Health Recommends Masks In Schools

“We know that mandates worked in the fall but we also know that we need public buy-in. For those mandates, we’re not going to send cops out to those schools to enforce it. So, if you don’t have public buy-in, you might be causing more harm than good,” Dunn said. “But at the same time, it’s the right decision to have kids in masks that don’t have the opportunity to be vaccinated.”

Dunn said we’re in a different situation heading into the school year than we were last year. And like last year, “with once again lot of unknowns.” And it’s those unknowns and a continuous flow of new information that she said is driving the changing recommendations.

“The public should want that and feel comforted by a scientist or a health officer’s ability to say, ‘You know what? Things have changed. We need to do things differently,’” Dunn said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Back to School

Holly Duke teaches all-day kindergarten at West Kearns Elementary....

Deanie Wimmer

High stakes of kindergarten readiness; what Utah schools are doing to improve student performance

Ready for kindergarten used to mean a child turned five by the cutoff date. But as the stakes and expectations get higher, teachers are encountering some surprising behaviors.

5 months ago

This week KSL+ looks at what school districts describe as “chronic absenteeism” in Utah’s sch...

Braden McElreath and Michael Houck, KSL TV

8 Utah schools have been placed on lockdown since the start 2023-2024 school year

In just two and a half weeks, seven Utah schools have issued seven lockdown protocols. 

6 months ago

Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...

Dan Rascon

Bingham High seniors petition due to school parking shortage

Some Bingham High School seniors in South Jordan, say a new parking policy for students is now preventing them from finding open stalls.

6 months ago

The outside of Ella Vista Elementary School. (KSL TV)...

Shelby Lofton

Bella Vista Elementary starts school year without air conditioning

Another Utah school is starting its school year without any AC.

6 months ago

McKinley Elementary School, Box Elder County School District. (KSL TV)...

Karah Brackin and Mary Culbertson, KSL TV

Box Elder School District among the last to head back to school; largely due to the County Fair

Box Elder School District heads back to school as one of the last districts to do so in the state. While they have unique factors to consider, students and administration are pumped for the new school year.

6 months ago

The Timekettle Translator earbuds that Herriman High School uses for their international students....

Karah Brackin and Michael Houck, KSL TV

New translation device helps international students in classes and studies

As Herriman High School continues to see the number of international students increasing, the school is turning to a game-changing device that is helping break down the language barrier.

6 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Dr. Dunn: Masks, Vaccines Best Way To Prevent Virus Spread