SALT LAKE CITY — Dr. Angela Dunn, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, will issue an "order of constraint" requiring children under 12 to wear masks in school.
Dunn made the announcement Tuesday afternoon and Mayor Jenny Wilson affirmed that she supported the decision. The Salt Lake County Council will now decide whether to let the request stand, which will officially be issued Wednesday.
"It is in the best public health interest and the interest of our students for them to be in masks in the fall to keep them in in-person learning with the least disruption possible, and then least health concerns possible," said Dunn.
Do you agree with the Salt Lake County Health Department’s order that students under 12 wear masks in public schools?— FOX 13 News Utah (@fox13) August 11, 2021
Council members told Dunn they wanted to see in the order first before deciding on whether to support it.
The council is scheduled to meet Thursday to decide whether to accept the order. If the council lets the order stay in place, it's possible it could go to the Utah legislature for a final decision.
School is scheduled to start in the county next Monday and Tuesday.
Dunn said that 45% of Salt Lake County students 12-and-older have been vaccinated. The focus of the order is on K-6 students due to their inability to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
"I'll be honest, I'm heartbroken that we're here as our kids are close to entering school," said Wilson. "We know that they're entering at a, sadly, a time when the delta variant is very, very aggressive.
"We all need to do everything we can do to keep this virus under control."
Dunn said she made the decision to "articulate the gravity of the situation" to elected officials.
The announcement will surely be divisive in the community as parents on both sides of masking have voiced their opinions to public officials over the last few weeks.
Wilson said the order would help teachers by giving them a policy for all students and not having to mitigate mask choices among students and their parents.
"There's far less drama in a school where all kids are wearing masks then a spread of COVID in that school and kids being sent home," Wilson said. "This is the less dramatic approach looking at that cost benefit analysis from the school children perspective."
Last week, Dunn told FOX 13 that she was considering a mask mandate for children in grades K-6.
"It’s tough, I have to be honest. Because I don’t know the right way to go here. And I’m wrestling with it every day," said Dunn. "Mandates, we have shown in the past work better than recommendations. We saw that last year. However, you have to have the public behind you for a mandate to work, right?"