The case for masks: Utahns express disappointment after Salt Lake Co. school mask mandate vote

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – While masks will not be required in Salt Lake County schools many teachers, parents and medical professionals gathered after the vote to express their disappointment with the council’s decision.  

Primary Children’s Hospital is operating under surge capacity protocols and due to several reasons, has no available beds. That’s why many healthcare workers are sounding the alarm especially since school hasn’t started yet.  

“It’s going to be something we’ve never seen before in our lifetime,” Physician’s assistant Erika Tse said.  

Erika Tse is one of many healthcare workers who are tired.  

“We are burnt out, we’re tired, we don’t have any energy left to give or even to care and this is what we went into our profession to do is to help people and it’s like you can only push people so much,” Tse said.  

With more children being hospitalized with COVID-19, many healthcare workers believe Thursday’s vote will be detrimental.  

“Everyone’s going to be in quarantine, in and out of schools, the case rates are going to blow up, they’ve predicted 45 hundred cases every day by October,” Tse said.  

“This should alarm you because we are at one-fourth the numbers, we were last winter when staffing levels hit this,” Nurse Practitioner Heidi Vawdrey said.  

Thursday’s vote to not require students K-6 to wear a mask in schools isn’t only affecting those on the frontlines but teachers too.  

“I’m really really disappointed that the council chose to overturn a public health order from the public health expert that’s hired specifically to protect our health in the county,” Granite School District teacher Deborah Gatrell said.  

“Our amazing public-school educators continually work magic in our classrooms, but they’re near a breaking point,” President of the Utah Education Association Heidi Matthews said.  

Several educators are now weighing the pros and cons of returning to school with no mandates in place.  

“To the teachers, I am thinking of you today and I commend you for your courage. You are not paid well so you can be there to teach…but you’re doing it because of your passion,” Salt Lake City Board of Education member Mohamed Baayd said.  

Many parents told ABC4 News they must decide if the risk of sending their child to school is worth the reward.  

“I feel terrified to send my kids to school this week…we are struggling with that decision,” Mother Jenny Nazzaro said.  

Other parents tell ABC4 they don’t want their children to wear a mask, saying it’s all about protecting parental rights.

Sandy City mother of three, Megen Despain, understands that point of view and hopes bullying doesn’t get in the way of children learning because of the County Council’s decision. 

“If the parents decide that their kids need to wear masks, then the other kids that are not wearing masks shouldn’t make fun of the other kids for wearing masks,” she says. ” I get it that there is that personal decision with the parents. I wish that a piece of fabric shouldn’t be so controversial.”

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