Salt Lake City Council extends mask mandate for K-12 schools

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A face mask lies on the ground at Piccadilly Circus in central London, Monday, July 19, 2021. As of Monday, face masks are no longer legally required in England, and with social distancing rules shelved, there are no limits on the number of people attending theater performances or big events. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Salt Lake City Council extended the local mask mandate for Salt Lake City’s K-12 schools.

The mandate is set to expire on Dec. 20 during winter recess for the schools.

The approval of this new extension comes just in time for the ending of the extension that the council voted in favor of last month.

The mask mandate initially began with a decision made by the mayor of Utah’s capital city Erin Mendenhall, who announced in August that she would enact emergency powers to mandate masks in K-12 schools within her jurisdiction.

Her decision to mandate masks warranted a positive response from the Salt Lake City School District.

The statement reads:

“The Salt Lake City School District would like to thank Mayor Mendenhall for her unwavering concern for the health and safety of our students during this ongoing pandemic. Our students’ health and well-being have always been and remain our priority. We recognize that individuals across the country have varying ideas and opinions on the issue of mask mandates. Nevertheless, the district firmly believes that wearing masks decreases the spread of the COVID-19 virus and is convinced that our mask-wearing guidelines implemented during the last school year were critical to allowing our schools to remain open. We will continue our current practice of strongly encouraging all students, employees, and visitors to wear masks in our schools and buildings.  

Mayor Mendenhall has recently indicated her willingness to institute a mask mandate to protect the students in our district. We recognize that the mayor has broad powers, independent of the board of education, under the Disaster Response and Recovery Act to address local emergencies and disasters affecting the city. Accordingly, we will await the mayor’s decision on whether she will issue an executive order.

We strongly support the belief that we as a community must protect our children who are not eligible to get vaccinated at this time by wearing masks. Further, we would like our families to understand that the current law prohibits the district or a school from issuing a mask mandate. The Utah Legislature passed HB 1007, which clearly states that local education agencies and schools “may not require an individual to wear a face-covering to attend or participate in in-person instruction.” Additionally, the Legislature outlined a path for implementing a mask mandate in public schools, starting with a public health official’s recommendation and then approval through the county commission. The county health director Dr. Angela Dunn recommended a mask mandate for our county, and we support the legislative process and Dr. Dunn’s guidance. We are committed to ensuring a healthy and safe environment for our students again by strongly encouraging everyone to wear masks in our schools and buildings. We must all take collective responsibility for our most vulnerable children.

We realize the rapidly evolving nature of this matter may cause some confusion among our employees, students, and parents. Therefore, with the first day of school approaching, we are committed to communicating any new information with our staff and families as soon as it is available. In the meantime, we are excited and getting ready for the start of school. You can read our detailed COVID-19 mitigation plans on our district website: https://www.slcschools.org/resources/covid-19-and-schools.”

The extension of the mask mandate comes on the heels of the Utah Department of Health reporting 4,366 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. A total of 524,556 Utahns have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began

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