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Mayor says SLC students 'healthier' due to school mask mandate; recommends extension

Posted at 11:01 AM, Sep 13, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly three weeks after the start of the school year, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Monday that students in the city "appear to be healthier" than any other children in Salt Lake County due to her K-12 mask emergency order.

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Mendenhall has recommended to the Salt Lake City Council that they vote Tuesday to extend the order.

During her briefing, Mendenhall shared similar concerns as local healthcare providers over the rise in COVID cases among school-aged children. In Utah last week, 1,373 children between the ages of 5-11 tested positive for COVID-19, up from just 95 cases over the same time frame in 2020.

"Our kids need to be wearing masks in school and out in the public," said Mendenhall. "We're not out of the woods, and we can't afford to be taking a step backwards at a time like this."

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According to data shared by Mendenhall, the Salt Lake City School District has the lowest rate of COVID-19 infection since the first day of school among the county's five school districts.

"What we're currently doing in Salt Lake City is working for our children and for our families," Mendenhall said. "And we need to continue insuring that they are as healthy and protected as possible from this contagious virus."

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Mendenhall added that she's pleased with mask compliance, saying around 99.8% of students are wearing masks, and that face coverings do "not seem to be impacting student ability to engage or to socialize."

The Salt Lake City Council released a statement after the mayor spoke, seemingly backing her recommendation to extend the mandate order.

"Since the start of school, we have been grateful for and supportive of Mayor Mendenhall’s order regarding masks in schools. Our goal is and has been to keep our schools open and our students in the classroom, and we feel wearing masks helps us reach that goal."

Many school administrators and teachers in the district also support Mendenhall's order and hope it continues.

"Our students want to be in the building, we want to keep our Northwest doors open and we don’t seem to have a problem, and our cases are low so I think we should absolutely extend the mask mandate,” said Andrea Seminario, principal at Northwest Middle School.