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Salt Lake County Health considers K-6 mask mandate

Utah school masks
Posted at 3:34 PM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 19:37:56-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Dr. Angela Dunn said she is considering whether to seek a mask mandate in schools for children in grades K-6.

READ: Salt Lake Co. returns to high transmission COVID level

"We’re exploring that option definitely," she said in an interview Thursday with FOX 13, adding: "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. 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?"

The Salt Lake County Board of Health on Thursday voted unanimously to request a mask mandate in schools for those under age 12. That request will go to Mayor Jenny Wilson and the Salt Lake County Council.

READ: Dr. Dunn on COVID-19 and her new role leading SL Co. Health

"A mask requirement for students in kindergarten through sixth grade is essential to protecting their health, as they are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination. Salt Lake County has had 11,529 of cases in children under 12 years, 58 required hospitalization, 27 were diagnosed with MIS-C, and 1 has died. Without prevention measures, the number of children with COVID-19 will undoubtedly grow much higher once school starts," the board wrote in a letter to the mayor and council.

Dr. Angela Dunn talks about her new role leading SLCo Health

"We know that mask-wearing prevents spread of COVID-19. A study in Salt Lake County elementary schools found a secondary attack rate of only 0.7% when universal masking was in place. This means that only 7 students were infected out of 1,000 exposures! Reinstating a mask requirement for our unvaccinated children indoor in schools will save lives."

Under the law passed by the Utah State Legislature, Dr. Dunn — as the county health executive — can issue a mandate. However, the Salt Lake County Council can override it if they chose to.

WATCH: Utah Board of Education receives hundreds of comments ahead of equity teaching decision

On Tuesday, the council was inundated with anti-mask demonstrators who pushed for no mandate — even though none had been issued or even sought.

Dr. Dunn said she was not sure if she would seek one.

"To be honest, it’s still under discussion," she said. "It’s something I wrestle with constantly."

On Thursday, Salt Lake County returned to the highest level of transmission for COVID-19. The state reported 1,096 new cases of the virus and seven new deaths.