CORONAVIRUS

Salt Lake Co. Council Votes Down K-6 Mask Mandate

Aug 12, 2021, 2:30 PM | Updated: Aug 13, 2021, 10:35 am

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County Council voted to overturn a mask requirement for K-6 students on Thursday.

The council voted 6-3, along party lines, to override the public health order of constraint that would have mandated face coverings for K-6 students in public, charter and private schools in the county.

Overriding the order only required a simple majority of the council, which is currently composed of six Republicans and three Democrats.

After the vote, a largely unmasked crowd erupted in cheers, followed by chants of “USA! USA! USA!”

Dr. Angela Dunn, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department thanked the council for its quick decision and said she is committed to continuing to work collaboratively with the council and other stakeholders to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The science is clear: Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent COVID-19,” Dunn said in a statement. “If you are not vaccinated, wearing a mask is safe and the second-best way to protect yourself and those around you. I chose to issue a mask order because the delta variant is a serious threat to children and our current transmission rates require a strong intervention—one proven effective last school year. Though the order will not stand, I’m optimistic that issuing it clearly signaled my level of concern as a medical professional, and that it will help more parents choose to send their children to school in masks.

“I encourage parents and teachers to be good role models for children by following health recommendations to wear a mask when indoors in public, offering positive reinforcement to children, and helping ensure our community dialogue on this and related issues remains kind and respectful.”

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson also issued a response to the vote: “Today was not the county council Republicans’ finest hour. Against the recommendation of medical experts, and those working diligently to control the spread of COVID-19, they chose to overturn a well-thought-out health policy moved by Salt Lake County Health Department Director Dr. Angela Dunn.

“Salt Lake County invests in and trusts its experts. Unfortunately, the guidance provided by Dr. Dunn was overturned by those swept up in emotion and unproven theories instead of believing well-founded medical data surrounding COVID-19.

“Going into the school year next week, my greatest hope is that parents will recognize the severe risk COVID-19 presents and choose to send their children to school in masks. Regardless, I want our kids to enter the school year with minimal conflict and disruption. It’s up to the adults to make that happen.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said her city is evaluating its options following the county council’s vote.

“By ignoring science and Dr. Dunn’s expertise, the county council’s vote makes our community less safe and puts our children at risk,” Mendenhall tweeted. “As a @slcschools parent, I’m concerned for my kids and as mayor, I worry for every child walking into school on 8/24. #SLC is evaluating its options.”

Before the vote, councilmember Jim Bradley, a Democrat, motioned to revisit the issue in approximately a month, saying the delta variant is a different virus than what the county saw this time last fall.

The council voted it down 6-3, along party lines.

Dunn issued the public health order of constraint on Wednesday.

“The best way that I can articulate the gravity of this situation, and what I see as the best way forward for Salt Lake County, and to keep our kids safe and in-person learning, is to officially notify Mayor Wilson of my intent to issue a mask order for school children under the age of 12 years in Salt Lake County,” Dunn said Tuesday.

Under SB 195, the law passed by the Utah Legislature earlier this year, a health department must give 24 hours notice to a top executive, which in this case was Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.

Wilson expressed her support for the mandate on Tuesday.

Dozens of parents and supporters from both sides of the issue filled the Salt Lake County Council chambers ahead of Thursday’s vote.

Salt Lake County Council Chair Steve DeBry, a Republican, called Thursday’s special council meeting to vote on a resolution to terminate Dunn’s order.

DeBry said he wants to leave the decision about mask-wearing for young children up to their parents.

“I don’t think there’s enough efficacy in those little kids wearing the masks to even move the needle very much as far as the protection it’s going to give them,” he said. “The way we’re going to get out of this is for adults to get vaccinated.”

Councilmember Bradley told KSL TV he will vote to keep the mask requirement in place.

“I see no downside, other than maybe an inconvenience with children having to wear a mask for 30 days in school, to not at least attempt to see if that approach works,” Bradley said.

Bradley said he agrees with Dunn’s order as a way to protect children too young to be eligible for the vaccine.

“You cannot just ignore science,” Bradley said. “You cannot ignore the data and when all things are said and done we are talking about our children. How much do you want to risk that you’re right or wrong on whatever your thought is on masks?”

Pediatrician Expresses Concern Over Delta Variant

Before the council’s meeting Thursday, Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at University of Utah Health and director of hospital epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, expressed concern about the current COVID-19 delta variant, which is hitting children more often and harder than previous COVID variants.

Pavia said he had hoped political leaders would follow the advice of scientific experts, like that of Dr. Dunn.

“I think it would be a terrible mistake,” he said, referring to the council’s vote to override the mask mandate for K-6 students. “I think they don’t understand the risk to children. They may not understand the science behind mask use. I think the important principle here is that we really want to follow the science and leave scientific decisions in the hands of people who have our kids’ best interests at heart, and who are not subject to the political winds that affect politicians.”

He said he believes it is essential to allow masks in schools, at least until a vaccine is available for those 12 and younger.

Pavia also said doctors and public health officials take responsibility for trying to protect children’s health, but if politicians and leaders overturn those recommendations, they have to realize it’s their responsibility if a child gets severely ill or dies.

“They should think very long and hard about that,” Pavia said.

First Presidency Urges Latter-day Saints To Get Vaccinated, Wear Masks

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement urging members to get vaccinated and wear face coverings as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge nationwide due to the delta variant.

“To limit exposure to these viruses, we urge the use of face masks in public meetings whenever social distancing is not possible. To provide personal protection from such severe infections, we urge individuals to be vaccinated. Available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective,” part of the statement read.

Read the full statement here.

KSL 5 TV Live

Coronavirus

Deer Creek Reservoir...

Alex Cabrero

State parks expecting another record visitation year, hiring more workers

It didn't matter how cold or snowy it was at Deer Creek State Park Friday afternoon. Nothing was going to stop Leonard Sawyer from taking his boat out to do a little fishing.

13 days ago

FILE —  Respiratory virus illness activity continues to increase across the US.
(Joe Burbank/Orl...

Emma Benson

‘Not viruses to mess around with’: Experts urge caution during ongoing ‘tripledemic’

Experts say though not as severe as last year, this winter we're seeing another "tripledemic" – rising cases of COVID-19, flu and RSV in Utah.

2 months ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS...

Emma Benson

‘The ICUs are full:’ Keep yourself and others healthy this holiday

It's time for holiday gatherings, but with more people around us comes a greater risk of getting sick.

2 months ago

Julianna Preece goes through the mountain of medical documents she's acquired for her health condit...

Lauren Steinbrecher

Herriman couple is suing CVS, says 5x Covid vaccine dose mistake caused health problems

A couple is suing a Utah CVS vaccination clinic, saying a nurse’s mistake led to the wife receiving five times the normal COVID-19 vaccine dose and caused serious health issues she’s still dealing with today.

3 months ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS...

Associated Press

More free COVID-19 tests from the government are available for home delivery through the mail

Americans can order more free COVID-19 tests online for home delivery.

3 months ago

FILE - Doses of the anti-viral drug Paxlovid are displayed in New York, Aug. 1, 2022. The COVID-19 ...

Amanda Seitz, Associated Press

COVID-19 treatments to enter the market with a hefty price tag

The COVID-19 treatments millions of have taken for free from the federal government will enter the private market next week with a hefty price tag.

4 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.

Salt Lake Co. Council Votes Down K-6 Mask Mandate