Salt Lake County recommends masks in school for children too young to be vaccinated, but state law makes mask mandate efforts ‘futile’

Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Dr. Angela Dunn, left, speaks during a COVID-19 briefing with Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson at her side at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 22, 2021.

Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Dr. Angela Dunn, left, speaks during a COVID-19 briefing with Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson at her side at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 22, 2021. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

But new county health boss said hope for mandates ‘futile’ in wake of legislative opposition

Children too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19 because they’re under 12 should wear masks when they return to school, but any attempt to mandate face coverings is “futile” after state lawmakers took control of virus restrictions, Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Angela Dunn said Thursday.

Dunn, a former Utah Department of Health epidemiologist who had a high-profile role in the state’s response to the pandemic that sparked protests before stepping down this spring to take the county post, said leaders of the GOP-dominated Utah Legislature don’t want a return to mask mandates, despite the current surge in cases.

Nor does Gov. Spencer Cox.

“Gov. Cox does not support renewing a mask mandate for schools. Instead, he continues to urge all Utahns to get vaccinated, especially before the school year starts,” the governor’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Napier-Pearce said.

Shortly before the school year ended in June, Cox dropped the requirement that masks be worn in K-12 schools for the final week of classes. The governor said it was “the right thing to do. We believe this is the prudent thing to do,” although he added that masks were still encouraged.

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“The point is really futile,” Dunn told reporters during a news conference in Salt Lake City when asked if she would seek to make her recommendations about masks in schools mandatory through the process created by new laws that lifted COVID-19 restrictions and gave lawmakers the final say.

“We as public health folks, both local and state, have been in discussions with legislative leadership and they’ve been very clear that their intent is not to have mask mandates,” Dunn said, calling for the community to come together “and normalize kids under the age of 12 wearing masks to school indoors.”

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
First graders Allison Mejia Medina, left, Tatum Ashy, right and their classmates wear masks as they go to lunch at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said “if we don’t take the next step as a community, I fear that some of the things that we’ve been able to do could be reined back. I’m not talking about regulation. I’m just talking about health and common sense.”

Wilson, a Democrat, said the county’s authority is limited by new state laws that give lawmakers the power to override local elected officials on public health orders, so “advocacy, if you believe and want further restrictions, needs to be with the state Legislature.”

Their comments come as COVID-19 cases are surging in Utah, reaching nearly 900 Wednesday. Fueled by the

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News

      

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