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Health Dept investigating high school dance in SLC attended by hundreds

Posted at 10:24 PM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 00:24:55-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County Health Department said it is investigating a dance that hundreds of high school students showed up to in Downtown Salt Lake City Tuesday, after complaints that videos show the event didn't follow the public health order.

But the dance organizer and event venue tell FOX 13 the videos don't accurately portray the whole picture.

Late Tuesday night, high school students like Annie Snow began to see videos pop up on Instagram stories, showing a multi-high school Morp dance at Sky SLC.

"Just everyone partying and dancing," the Timpview High School senior said, of what she saw in the videos. "No masks in sight. Or if they're there, they are like down or under the nose."

Annie noted that it looked like no one was social distancing, and it appeared most people were packed onto the dance floor.

She recognized some familiar faces from school.

"I saw my friends and I was like, 'Oh. that's fine...'" she recounted.

The high schooler said she didn't know what to do about what she was seeing on social media, and felt helpless.

"Just a lot of like worry and concern, because a lot of it is going to affect either them, families and everyone at school," she said.

It's not just a concern for students and parents, but also something that the Salt Lake County Health Department is now looking into.

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Ron Lund, Environmental Health Director with the Salt Lake County Health Department said they get several hundred calls every month, with complaints of alleged public health order violations at places of business.

He said they take the information, collect facts, and look at what was occurring and how it relates to the public health order.

When it comes to a venue like a bar, club or dance hall, Lund explained that under the order, those businesses need to keep parties separated by at least six feet, and masks are mandatory except when actively eating or drinking.

"They're supposed to stay within their party while they're there, they're supposed to distance, they're supposed to wear a mask, and all of those things," he said.

Despite what the videos show, the dance organizer tells FOX 13 they took precautions to keep people safe. He said he and other students have been planning this event for two months.

"People see in those videos people without masks on, and that kind of portrays a bad image on what the dance actually was and what we represented," the 17-year old high school senior said.

He wanted to keep his identity private but explained that students from ten different high schools were invited to the dance.

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While it was a multi-high school dance, no school or district were officially involved with the event.

They used mobile tickets and QR codes for contactless entry, the organizer said, and no one was allowed inside without a mask on. They had extra masks at the door for anyone who wasn't wearing one or forgot it, he said.

They capped the event size and kept capacity to just over 30 percent of what the venue can typically hold, the student explained.

"There was hand sanitizer stations all around the venue, as the bouncers see [people without masks], they were kindly asking students to put their masks on," he said. "But with a staff of only 15 guys, it was hard to keep up with the 400 kids who were at the event."

Both the organizer and a spokesperson for Sky SLC told FOX 13 they implemented other safety steps like posting signage around the venue, keeping garage doors and the entire roof open for air flow, checking temperatures at the door, and making sure the DJ gave constant reminders about mask wearing.

"I wanted to provide a safe, fun opportunity for students to be able to feel what it was like in past years, in a safe way," the organizer said.

When asked about the videos showing a crowded dance floor with improper mask wearing, the student said they could only control so much, and that they were trying to keep it in control as much as they could.

Read: Utah, Salt Lake Counties begin COVID-19 vaccine rollout for people over 65

Sky SLC said that there was a comprehensive guest list to keep track of every single attendee, and that students were grouped together into sections at tables, with a table for every small group.

While the organizer is confident that the dance was a huge, safe success, ultimately it'll be up to the Salt Lake County Health Department to decide if what was posted on Instagram warrants any action.

If the health department finds that a business violates the public health order, Lund explained that three things can happen.

First, he said they want to educate the business and work with them to help. Lund said he wants to keep a business open.

Second, the health department can give a warning and ask the business to make corrections.

Worst case scenario, Lund indicated, they'll issue a notice and order of restriction that closes the business until the business can demonstrate it has a plan in place that meets state requirements.