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Weber-Morgan Health Director wants K-6 mask mandate

FILE: Photo credit: KSL.com

MORGAN, Utah — The Director of the Weber-Morgan Health Department said he wants to issue a health order requiring masks for K-6 students in Weber and Morgan counties. But says county commissioners are hesitant.

“I did leave the meeting with the impression from both Morgan County and Weber County that there is a lot of hesitancy of allowing any type of mask mandate to go into place,” Health Department Executive Director Brian Cowan told KSL Newsradio.

What the Weber-Morgan health order would look like

For both counties, Cowan’s proposed health order would require masks for Kindergarten through 6th grade if a school has 2% of its student body with COVID-19. That’s the same threshold that the state has set. That percentage triggers the ‘Test to Stay’ segment of Utah law.  Once a school sees 2% of students with COVID-19 cases the student body has to test negative to return to school.

Related: Salt Lake County Council overturns K-6 mask mandate

The threshold is different for smaller schools. 

Cowan told KSL that lawyers are reviewing his propsal, which is not yet a formal request for mandate. It would add a mask requirement for kids in grades K-6 in addition to the state’s requirement to test kids in schools having an outbreak.

“What’s missing in that law is mask use. And if you look at what I’m proposing for a public health order, it’s picking up that missing component of the ‘Test to Stay’ law,” Cowen said. 

Related:  SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall issues mask mandate for government buildings

He said that, based on modeling,  some schools in Weber and Morgan counties are already on their way to that threshold.

“We may hit the ‘Test to Stay’ threshold – that 2% – at some of our schools sometime in about mid-October.”  

Balancing public health and governing 

Per state law, county health departments can issue health orders, while county commissions have the ability to overturn them. But Cowan said if he decides to issue a health order, it will be in collaboration with the Weber and Morgan county commissions. 

Sometimes it is hard for us — and a little bit frustrating — because we’re giving what we feel is the best public health advice, that’s our focus.

“But we need to also be aware of the broader perspective of governing a community and what other factors play into decisions that our elected officials make.” 

Cowen said any future decision he does make on a public health order will be in collaboration with commissioners.