SALT LAKE COUNTY — Tuesday’s meeting of the Salt Lake County Council featured a heated debate on face coverings being mandated in public schools.
Currently, no vote is in front of the council that would implement such a mandate.
For a mandate to happen, an order must be issued by the local health department. That can then be either accepted or denied by the council.
That did not stop dozens of parents, many of whom were wearing "See My Smile" clothing, from addressing the council about masks.
“We have conditioned our kids and adults to believe their breathing is bad,” one parent said.
Another asked, “For those in the audience who spoke and said, ‘I am worried for my children.’ Well, why? Why are you worried? They are not going to die.”
Dr. Angela Dunn, the county health department's executive director, presented the council with evidence as to why people should be concerned in her report on the county’s response to the virus.
“We are going into the school year with more spread in our community than we had last year,” Dr. Dunn told the council.
With very high transmission of the virus across the county, Dr. Dunn presented slides showing in July alone, seven children were hospitalized with COVID-19.
She estimated that if the school year starts without any preventative measures, 60 children aged 12 and younger — who are unable to get vaccinated — could contract the virus daily.
If that happens, that would put another strain on an already taxed healthcare system.
“We only have one hospital in our state that can care for kids with this level of ICU care, and that’s Primary Children’s and they too are at capacity,” Dr. Dunn said.
Several members of the council indicated they will not support a mandate if it comes to a vote.
“People have options, and now it’s time to return to liberty and that’s where I intend to follow,” said Councilman Dave Alvord.
His comment was met with cheers from those in attendance.
But Dr. Dunn cautioned that the county could be looking at a bleak future if the school year starts without something being done to stop the current trends.
“It’s disrespectful to the families that have dealt with that [COVID] to say 'There are no kids impacted, it doesn’t matter,'” she said. “Talk to the families that have dealt with it. We have something to prevent that.”