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Health, Science & Environment

SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall Calls On City Council Members To Uphold Mask Requirements In K-12 Schools

A photo of Erin Mendenhall speaking at a podium at a press conference.
Ivana Martinez
/
KUER
Mayor Erin Mendenhall said the city’s COVID-19 situation is hurtling toward dire circumstances. Mendenhall said masks are one way to prevent more rising COVID cases among children.

During a press conference Monday afternoon, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall urged members of the city council to vote to uphold her emergency mask requirement in K-12 schools.

In August, she issued the order, requiring staff, students and visitors to wear masks in schools. It came after the Salt Lake County Council voted against one.

Her order is set to expire 30 days after it was issued — which would be Sept. 19 — unless the city council votes to uphold the mandate.

Mendenhall said masking in the Salt Lake City School District is working. According to data from the Salt Lake County Health Department, the district’s case rate is about 42 per 10,000 students — one of the lowest in the county.

“We are not out of the woods,” the mayor said, “and we can't afford to be taking a step backwards at a time like this. … We need to continue ensuring that [students] are as healthy and protected as possible from this contagious virus.”

She said until vaccines become available for all everyone, masking must continue in schools. Right now, only kids ages 12 and up can get vaccinated.

A representative from the Salt Lake City School District said they support the mayor’s order.

“Our goal is and has been to keep our schools open and our students in the classroom, and we feel wearing masks helps us reach that goal,” the district told KUER.

School officials also said masking has not been a barrier to learning and students are engaged and interactive.

City councilmember Dan Dugan said he plans to vote to extend the mandate. He said he’s always been supportive of masks from the beginning.

“I think it’s not easy to wear a mask around but it’s the right thing to do,” Dugan said. “I think it’s one step that we need to take to curtail the spread of the virus.”

He said while he’s received a couple complaints about the requirement, the majority of his constituents are on-board.

Dugan and Mendenhall both said they feel pretty confident the council will support the extension. If passed it would be renewed for another 30 days.

The city council is set to vote on it Tuesday evening.

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