Overturning recommended mask mandate in schools would be a mistake

Aug 11, 2021, 6:37 PM
mask mandate students...
(FILE PHOTO - First graders Gilbert Grant and Monty Fox wear masks as they wash their hands before lunch at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Salt Lake City on May 12, 2021. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(FILE PHOTO - First graders Gilbert Grant and Monty Fox wear masks as they wash their hands before lunch at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Salt Lake City on May 12, 2021. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY– Elected officials are predicting the Salt Lake County Council will overturn the mask mandate in schools for kids younger than 12. However, a well-known pediatrician believes that would be a major mistake.

Recommended mask mandate for schools 

The county council is expected to discuss the mask mandate recommendation proposed by Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Angela Dunn on Thursday. Council Chair Steve DeBry told KSL NewsRadio he doesn’t believe the council will approve the mask mandate for schools.

“Personally, I think that we will probably overturn it. I think there’s a very small chance somebody in that age group would contract the virus, and I just don’t think benefits outweigh the risks,” DeBry said.

Pediatrician believes it would be a mistake

However, according to Primary Children’s Hospital Infectious Disease Doctor Andrew Pavia that just isn’t true. He said there were several reasons why viral spread was low among children on school grounds in 2020, and the mask mandate was one of those reasons.

Pavia said, “Last year, with all children wearing masks, and other mitigations in place, we were able to have in-person school safely.”

Plus, Pavia said the Delta variant is changing everything. He acknowledged children tend to have a less severe reaction to the virus than adults, but kids aren’t completely invulnerable.

“It is being transmitted much more rapidly. It’s affecting a lot more children than we saw with earlier versions of the virus,” according to Pavia.

He said if the decision to wear masks is up to only parents and lawmakers, fewer kids will wear them, leading to another spike in cases after the school year begins. Pavia added Primary Children’s is already seeing a moderate increase in pediatric COVID-19 patients, and the spike is even worse in southern states.

“All across the south, children’s hospitals are filling up. Arkansas Children’s Hospital has 23 patients currently admitted and 10 are in the ICU,” Pavia said. “St. Louis Children’s Hospital is full.”

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Overturning recommended mask mandate in schools would be a mistake