HEALTH

Some support, others condemn Salt Lake County school mask order

Aug 11, 2021, 3:54 PM | Updated: 5:10 pm
school mask order...
Groups who support and who condemn the Salt Lake County Health Departments school mask order are speaking out. Photo credit: Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah groups dedicated to parents, teachers and public health showed support Wednesday for the Salt Lake County Health Department school mask order for children 12 and younger. Meanwhile, other groups are giving the order a thumbs down. 

The Utah Education Association, Voices for Utah Children, Safe Schools Utah and Utah Public Health Association issued statements supporting the school mask order and Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Dr. Angela Dunn. 

The common theme among the supportive statements: kids wearing masks until they become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine is the only way to keep them safe from the disease. The messages also encourage more people to get vaccinated. 

Statement supporting school mask order from Voices for Utah Children

Utah’s Leading Child Research and Advocacy Organization IssuesCall to Utah Legislature: Reinstate the K-12 Mask Requirement

SALT LAKE CITY, AUG 10 – Voices for Utah Children today called on the Utah State Legislature to hold a Special Session to reinstate the mask requirement for all K-12 schools in Utah. The recent increase in cases caused by the Delta Variant has led to this request. When the Legislature enacted the “Endgame Bill” we were operating under an entirely different set of data points. Cases were going down, hospitalizations were going down and we were rolling out the vaccine.

Currently, we are seeing cases spike upward and hospitalizations increasing. We are pleased to see an increase in the percentage of 12 – 17-year-old children having at least one shot, but we are still below 50% in that demographic. We do not anticipate a vaccine for children under 12 for several months, which leaves our youngest vulnerable to infection.

Voices stands in support with the recently released guidance from Utah pediatric health care providers and we are basing our request on the “Interim Guidelines” published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in July which can be found at this link.

Some highlighted recommendations are:

  • All eligible individuals should receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • All students older than 2 years and all school staff should wear face masks at school (unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use).
  • The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for school COVID-19 plans should start with a goal of keeping students safe and physically present in school.

We also want to clear up confusion on which entity currently has the authority to implement a mask requirement. The local County Council upon receiving a recommendation from the county health department can vote to require masks in schools based in that County. Local school districts and Charter Schools currently do not have the authority to take action.

We use a simple filter in our work, which is “Is It Good For Kids?”. ” … given our current situation the reinstatement of a mask requirement is in the best interest of all our children. We urge members of the public to contact your State Senators and Representatives to ask them to join our call for a Special Session immediately to override the current statute and protect our children.

Statement from the Utah Public Health Association

Utah Public Health Association Statement in Response to Surge in COVID-19 Cases

As COVID cases surge across our state, we urge the public, state and local leaders to take immediate action. For over 100 years, the Utah Public Health Association has been working to advance the health and equity of Utahns. We believe individuals, families and communities can and must work together to stay healthy and safe. Together we can make informed choices, and adopt sound, evidence-based policies.

We support the recommendations of the CDC and others to keep the public safe and stop the spread of COVID; in addition, we stand with the American Academy of Pediatrics, CDC and Utah Department of Health in their guidelines to support a safe return to school. In order to ensure the success of our students, our economy and our state we recommend the following actions.

For our public officials, including the Governor, legislative leadership and county councils, we urge you to:

  • Reinstate a policy of universal mask-wearing to limit the spread of the virus;
  • Allow officials within local health departments to issue data-driven public health orders, including maks mandates;
  • Adopt the recommendations of the Utah Department of Health that all students, teachers and staff returning to school wear masks, practice physical distancing and regular hand-washing; and
  • Invest in Utah’s public health infrastructure to continue vaccine and COVID prevention outreach efforts, particularly for marginalized or under-resourced populations.

For members of the public, including parents, caregivers and students, we urge you to:

  •  Get vaccinated! All who can get vaccinated should do so. If you have questions about the vaccine or how to get it, please contact your local health department.
  • Wear a mask! Mask-up in public spaces and indoors, especially around those whose vaccination status is unknown or among those who may have been exposed to COVID.
  • Contact state legislators and your county council or commission to express your support for our public health leaders and public health safety measures, including mask-wearing in schools and public spaces.
  • Stay home if you do not feel well, so you protect others, including our essential workers. Get tested if you have any symptoms of COVID.

Through data-informed action we can keep our kids, families and communities safe. The health of our state’s population is achieved when we work together to support one another.

Statement from the Utah Education Association

UEA Supports Following the Science in Keeping Schools Safe

Local health department recommendations should guide decisions

The Utah Education Association supports following the recommendations of medical professionals and local health departments in addressing COVID in our public schools, including the call by the Salt Lake County Health Department to require masks for children under age 12.

UEA President Heidi Matthews sent the following to Salt Lake County Council members on August 10:

Dear Members of the Salt Lake County Council,

On behalf of more than 18,000 Utah Education Association-member educators, including thousands here in Salt Lake County, I write to express Utah teacher concerns about returning to school this fall.

As you consider ways to protect our most vulnerable citizens, including our young students under age 12 who are unable as yet to receive the COVID vaccine, the Utah Education Association asks you to recognize and support the recommendations of medical professionals and health departments.

Utah educators are very concerned about the impact of emerging COVID variants and how they may affect student learning and educator workload. We all want what is best for our students to learn and thrive, which this year, absolutely depends on our schools being safe and remaining open for in-person learning. The best way to address these issues is to slow the spread of the virus by following the recommendations given by Dr. Angela Dunn and her colleagues, the medical experts at the State and County Health Departments.

Sincerely,

Heidi Matthews
President, Utah Education Association

Not all groups support the school mask order

Meanwhile, other groups including Utah Parents United offered statements opposing the K-6 mask mandate. It urged parents and medical professionals to speak out against the order.

The Salt Lake County Council is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the mask order. One member of the council told KSL NewsRadio the council expects the order to be overturned. 

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Some support, others condemn Salt Lake County school mask order