Mayor Mendenhall ‘Prepared’ To Issue Mask Mandate For SLC School District

Aug 17, 2021, 5:02 PM | Updated: 11:36 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said she’s prepared to issue a mask mandate for students in the Salt Lake City School District, but she wants support from the school board before she issues the mandate.

Mendenhall called on the Salt Lake City school board to hold an emergency meeting to make an official recommendation that students mask up when returning to the classroom next week.

She said if that happens, she will issue a school mask mandate.

Mendenhall made the call to action during a city council work session late Tuesday afternoon, citing an uptick in COVID-19 cases among students across the country.

“This is part of our population that really doesn’t have any choice but to remain unvaccinated, especially the K-6, and they have to be indoors in a group with other unvaccinated people,” she said. “It makes them especially vulnerable to contracting the virus and the more contagious Delta variant.”

A few hours after the meeting, she posted on Twitter, echoing those same sentiments.

The tweet read, in part, “My #1 concern is the health of unvaccinated children who are about to gather in school.”

The Salt Lake City School District and Board of Education issued a statement following Mendenhall’s announcement.

The statement reads in full:

“The Salt Lake City School District and Board of Education share Mayor Mendenhall’s concern about the health of our students. We’ve seen the effectiveness of mask-wearing in helping slow the spread of COVID-19. Consistent and proper mask-wearing played an important role in preventing any schools in Salt Lake City School District from closing last year.   

The health and safety of our students continues to be our top priority. While we share Mayor Mendenhall’s concern, various state statutes currently appear to limit our ability to enforce a mask mandate. Therefore, we are seeking a legal opinion on what actions a local school board can take regarding masking in schools within the scope of state law.” 

Mendenhall said the Salt Lake City Attorney’s Office determined it is within her legal capacity to issue a local emergency to protect public health and that she is confident with that analysis.

Nichols Rupp, communications and PR manager for the Salt Lake County Health Department, also issued a statement Tuesday afternoon:

“Though Dr. Dunn and SLCoHD were not involved in Mayor Mendenhall’s decision to issue a mask requirement for SLC K-6 schools, her effort is based on the best scientific evidence to help protect those not eligible for vaccination from COVID-19. We strongly recommend students and teachers wear masks when indoors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, leading to more in-person school days.”

Parents from a Facebook group that want masks in schools said they want the mandate to reach further after one member received a letter on the evening after the first day of school, telling him his daughter was exposed to COVID-19 and is on quarantine for two weeks.

“I would love to see a mask mandate until case counts have leveled out, especially until we have a sense of how the Delta variant is affecting our children,” Jamie Stillwell told KSL-TV.

Stillwell’s daughter is in elementary school in Utah County.

She said she’s disappointed the governor hasn’t already made masks mandatory in schools.

This all comes nearly a week after the Salt Lake County Council terminated a countywide mask mandate for grades kindergarten through sixth grade that was issued by the county’s health department.

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Mayor Mendenhall ‘Prepared’ To Issue Mask Mandate For SLC School District