Utah lawmakers question school mask mandate for K-12 kids

Apr 23, 2021, 12:39 PM | Updated: Apr 24, 2021, 8:34 pm

Utah needs more school bus drivers...

FILE -- Students at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in South Salt Lake wear masks as the get on a bus to go home after their first day of school on Aug. 24, 2020. (PHOTO: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

(PHOTO: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Some Utah lawmakers want to know why children in grades K-12 are still subject to a mask mandate at school. 

The state public schools superintendent and the health department answered questions during a legislative committee hearing on Thursday.

Lawmakers discussed how SB 195 (the bill that lays out emergency powers) doesn’t spell out who is in charge of the state’s decision to mandate masks.

The school mask mandate debate

State superintendent Dr. Sydnee Dickson says most Utah school districts used the school mask requirements to have safety plans in the fall while other states and Salt Lake City opted for online learning.

“At the time, leading into the fall, our rates of spread were much higher, we were trying to get into school safely,” she said.

But committee members on the Administrative Rules Committee asked if a statewide school mask mandate was still necessary now, when teachers are vaccinated and the statewide mask mandate is gone. They also point out that transmission is low among children.

Decisions made by state, or local leaders?

Utah state Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Utah, says he doesn’t mind wearing a mask and his kids don’t. But he’s worried about many other issues affecting kids and teens like their mental health. And he wondered why local school districts, especially in areas with no COVID-19 cases, couldn’t make these decisions themselves.

“You might be looking at multiple points of data, but you are only looking at one aspect of all the data. You are a non-elected official, meaning you are not directly accountable to the citizens who gave you the power to act,” he said.

But Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said masks are important for kids, because her 6-year-old now has long-term health effects from the virus.

Research supports keeping schools open with mitigation

The CDC currently reports children between the ages of 5 and 17 represent less than 10% of all COVID cases, supporting the argument for keeping schools open. But the agency recommended children and adults continue to wear masks at school. 

“When prevention strategies – especially mask use and physical distancing – are consistently and correctly used, the risk of transmission in the school environment is decreased,” the CDC study’s authors wrote

No action taken for now

The committee ended without taking any action. Gov. Spencer Cox told reporters on Thursday that he won’t remove the mandate, either. That means masks will probably stay in schools through the end of this school year, in late May and early June depending on the district.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Education + Schools

Image of Salt Lake City School District offices. The district and UTA announced the return of free ...

Debbie Worthen, KSL-TV

Parents voice concern over recommended school closures in the Salt Lake City School District

At West High School on Tuesday night, 50 parents took to the microphone to voice their concerns over the recommended closures.

1 hour ago

Seventy percent of Gen Z looks to TikTok for career advice....

Derrick Jones

TikTok, the Gen Z source for career and salary advice

A whopping 70% of Gen Z uses TikTok for career guidance, with 20% considering it their primary source of such advice.

13 hours ago

students walk on the U of U campus, political positions from a public college or university is no l...

Sam Herrera

Utah Board of Higher Education’s free speech resolution won’t eliminate political opinions on campus, expert says

Any public Utah college must commit to neutrality following the free speech resolution. But it doesn't apply to indivuduals.

15 hours ago

The block U appears on the front of the J. Willard Marriott Library on the University of Utah campu...

Peter Johnston

University of Utah students face charges after protesting movie they call “transphobic”

The students protesting the movie they said was transphobic are part of a self-proclaimed socialist club on the University of Utah campus.

20 hours ago

Image of four monolithic domes in Genola, Utah County, designed by Leland Gray and built as a facil...

Curt Gresseth

As some Utah school populations dwindle, could dome schools help?

The idea of dome schools was born in Utah but only one Utah town has them. Could they help more school districts and communities?

1 day ago

a person types on a laptop...

Amanda Dickson

How private is “incognito mode?”

People think when they're in incognito mode that they can't be tracked, but ad trackers are craftier and craftier.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

Utah lawmakers question school mask mandate for K-12 kids