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Health experts: Kids need masks after Utah mandate expires

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Virus Outbreak Schools
Posted at 9:14 PM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 23:21:30-04

If kids are old enough to walk and talk, that almost guarantees they must wear a mask in public.

The CDC recommends masks in public for all kids two and older.

In Utah, the Salt Lake County Health Department said the statewide health order covers everyone ages three and up. But even after the mask mandate expires April 10, they're urging parents to keep kids covered.

Some children have gotten used to it, like 8-year-old Anneliese Goodfellow and 6-year-old Violet Goodfellow.

"How do you feel about wearing your masks, girls?" their mom Tawyna Goodfellow asked them on Tuesday after the three left Walmart in South Jordan wearing masks.

"Uhhhh, it's okay," the girls answered. "It's okay, huh," Mom echoed.

Goodfellow said the girls' grandmother made them masks, which they enjoy wearing. They also chose masks in fun patterns and colors, and Goodfellow offered treats early on if the sisters kept their masks above their noses the whole time.

Now, it's just a part of life.

But Anneliese and Violet said not everyone they know likes masks.

"My friend doesn't like to wear masks, so she kind of takes it off in class," Anneliese, a second grader, said.

Violet said some other kindergartners in her class do the same thing.

"The younger kids have a really hard time," Goodfellow said. "I have a lot of nieces and nephews who are younger -- three and younger -- and they have a hard time."

From temper tantrums to sensory issues, not all kids can cooperate.

Tuesday, Utah's U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart introduced the No Mask Mandate for Kids Act, which his office said would rescind President Joe Biden's mandate that children must wear masks to travel domestically.

"Families with young children are being thrown off flights for the slightest mask-wearing 'infraction,'" Stewart wrote in a statement. "Industries, states, and families have a right to decide whether or not children have to wear masks while traveling."

READ: Utah Rep. Stewart introduces 'No Mask Mandate for Kids Act'

But fussy child aside, what do health experts think?

Ilene Risk, the epidemiology bureau manager with the Salt Lake County Health Department, explained why they urge parents to keep masks on their kids in public.

For one, kids can be unknowingly transmitting the COVID-19 virus.

"A lot of times, people are unaware that they have COVID-19. Particularly, we've noticed, in younger age groups, they may be less likely to have overt symptoms," she said.

This age group will also be the last to get vaccinated, she pointed out. Even after adults receive their vaccines in Utah, kids won't have that same immunity.

"If you have a completely vulnerable population -- school age kids or younger -- there's going to be diseases that occur," Risk explained. "And those pockets of illness can then spread to the community and can spread to people who haven't been vaccinated."

That's why they will continue to recommend children wear masks in public, even after the statewide mask mandate disappears April 10.

It's also why, Risk indicated, schools will continue mask mandates under direction of the Utah Department of Health.

Violet and Anneliese certainly plan to continue wearing their fun, colorful masks.

"Because it keeps you safe," Violet said.

Goodfellow said they expect the girls will keep wearing masks at school and it'll be part of the routine.

"They know why they need to wear it," she said. "And if they understand why it's necessary right now, then obviously they are a little more motivated to keep it on."