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Salt Lake City Council votes to extend mask mandate for K-12 students

SALT LAKE CITY — A mandate requiring masks for K-12 students in Salt Lake City will be extended for 30 days following a vote from the city council.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall issued the original emergency order on Aug. 20, just before school started in person. It was set to end this weekend, but it will be extended until mid-October with Tuesday’s vote.

The council voted 6-1 in favor of the extension. The council member who opposed it, James Rogers, said during Tuesday’s meeting that it was inappropriate for the council to be making such a decision.

“It should be family-based. It shouldn’t be based upon a mandate,” he said. “It shouldn’t be on us. It should be on the school board. Those are the people that are elected to be doing this. We weren’t elected to be overseers of the school district.”

Mendenhall said she was grateful the council decided to extend the mandate.

“I appreciate (the) SLC Council voting to extend this life-saving requirement tonight. The data shows masks are keeping our children healthy and in school for in-person learning. I’ll keep working to ensure SLC’s children are as healthy and protected from this virus as they can possibly be,” Mendenhall said.

The Salt Lake Teachers Association also supported the extension.

“Salt Lake City educators applaud the decision of the Salt Lake City Council to extend Mayor Mendenhall’s mask mandate in Salt Lake schools, thank you! We appreciate the work of these elected officials to keep students and our community safe during this most recent COVID spike in our city. The overwhelming feedback from students is that wearing masks is not a hardship, and is well worth the inconvenience if it will help save even one life and/or improve the prospect of keeping our schools open,” said James Tobler, Salt Lake Education Association president.

The council is taking public comment during their Sept. 21 meeting and will revisit extending the mandate again during its Oct. 12 meeting.

Earlier this week, Mendenhall called for the extension, saying the data shows it’s working.

Dr. Angela Dunn with the Salt Lake County Health Department said the Salt Lake City School District has the highest rate of vaccination of students over the age of 12 (60%) and the lowest rate of COVID-19 cases (57 cases per 10,000 students) since the first day of school among Salt Lake County’s five school districts.

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