Salt Lake County Council overturns K-6 student mask mandate

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Students in Salt Lake County will not be required to wear masks in school this fall.

Following a 6-3 vote by the Salt Lake County Council on Thursday, a previously submitted proposal has fallen flat.

Earlier this week, Dr. Angela Dunn, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department joined other county leaders, including County Mayor Jenny Wilson, in finalizing a proposal to require masks for school children under the age of 12 when indoors.

By Wednesday afternoon, many members of the Salt Lake County Council had expressed their opinion on the proposal, with four of the nine saying they planned to vote against it. Among those include Chair Steve DeBry, Richard Snelgrove, Dea Theodore, and David Alvord.

ABC4’s Nick McGurk captured these photos of the crowd during the council meeting.

Debry, Snelgrove, Theodore, Alvord, Aimee Winder Newton, and Laurie Stringham all voted to overturn. After the vote, the crowd erupted into cheers, which can be heard at the end of the video at the top of this story.

Before the vote, member Jim Bradley made a substitute motion to table the vote “for 30 or 40 days” to determine if the masks were effective by reviewing data and comparing it to previous data, as well as information from schools in other states without a mask order. That motion failed on a 6-3 vote.

Dr. Dunn released the following statement after the vote:

I thank the Salt Lake County Council for their quick decision so Salt Lake County parents, students, and educators have clarity. Though this is not the result I had hoped for, I am committed to continuing to work collaboratively with the Council and other stakeholders to address the COVID pandemic.

The science is clear: vaccination is the most effective way to prevent COVID-19; if you are not vaccinated, wearing a mask is safe and the second-best way to protect yourself and those around you. I chose to issue a mask order because the delta variant is a serious threat to children and our current transmission rates require a strong intervention—one proven effective last school year. Though the order will not stand, I’m optimistic that issuing it clearly signaled my level of concern as a medical professional, and that it will help more parents choose to send their children to school in masks.

I encourage parents and teachers to be good role models for children by following health recommendations to wear a mask when indoors in public, offering positive reinforcement to children, and helping ensure our community dialogue on this and related issues remains kind and respectful.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson also released a statement:

Today was not the County Council Republicans’ finest hour. Against the recommendation of medical experts, and those working diligently to control the spread of COVID-19, they chose to overturn a well-thought-out health policy moved by Salt Lake County Health Department Director Dr. Angela Dunn.

Salt Lake County invests in and trusts its experts. Unfortunately, the guidance provided by Dr. Dunn was overturned by those swept up in emotion and unproven theories instead of believing well-founded medical data surrounding COVID-19.

Going into the school year next week, my greatest hope is that parents will recognize the severe risk COVID-19 presents and choose to send their children to school in masks. Regardless, I want our kids to enter the school year with minimal conflict and disruption. It’s up to the adults to make that happen.

Although no statewide mask mandate is set to be issued, Gov. Cox announced that the Utah Government would provide a KN95 and N95 mask to every school-aged child who wants one. According to the governor, these masks will be made available to all schools in Utah, and each school will also have funds to purchase masks.

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