Salt Lake City, Utah — Thursday the Salt Lake County Council will meet to vote on whether to approve or overturn a mask requirement for kindergarten through sixth-grade students.
The executive director of the county’s health department, Dr. Angela Dunn, issued the public health order of constraint Wednesday that mandates face coverings for K-6 students in public, charter and private schools in the county.
“The best way that I can articulate the gravity of this situation, and what I see as the best way forward for Salt Lake County, and to keep our kids safe and in-person learning, is to officially notify Mayor Wilson of my intent to issue a mask order for school children under the age of 12 years in Salt Lake County,” Dunn said Tuesday.
According to the order, masks are required in any indoor areas and on school-provided transportation.
Council Chair Steve DeBry, a Republican, called a special council meeting for Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Salt Lake County Government Center to vote on a resolution to terminate Dunn’s order.
“I’m going to vote to overturn the constraint order,” DeBry said.
DeBry will take a simple majority of the nine-member council to terminate the mask order. Republicans have six of the seats compared to three held by Democrats.
DeBry said he wants to leave the decision about mask-wearing for young children up to their parents.
“I don’t think there’s enough efficacy in those little kids wearing the masks to even move the needle very much as far as the protection it’s going to give them,” he said. “The way we’re going to get out of this is for adults to get vaccinated.”
Councilmember Jim Bradley, a Democrat, told KSL TV that he would vote to keep the mask requirement.
“I see no downside, other than maybe an inconvenience with children having to wear a mask for 30 days in school, to not at least attempt to see if that approach works,” Bradley said.
According to Bradley, that is a way to protect children too young to be eligible for the vaccine.
“You cannot just ignore science,” Bradley said. “You cannot ignore the data and when all things are said and done we are talking about our children. How much do you want to risk that you’re right or wrong on whatever your thought is on masks?”
The president of the Utah Education Association sent a letter to council members urging them to support Dunn’s recommendations concerning COVID-19 and public schools.
“Utah educators are very concerned about the impact of emerging COVID variants and how they may affect student learning and educator workload,” UEA President Heidi Matthews said. “We all want what is best for our students to learn and thrive, which this year, absolutely depends on our schools being safe and remaining open for in-person learning. The best way to address these issues is to slow the spread of the virus by following the recommendations given by Dr. Angela Dunn and her colleagues, the medical experts at the State and County Health Departments.”