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“What we’re doing is working”: Salt Lake mayor gives update on masks in schools

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall addresses the media about the mask mandate in the Salt Lake City School District (KSLTV)

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said that the mandate for masks in Salt Lake County schools is working, and she hopes the order will be extended.

Mendenhall: Masks help Salt Lake City schools stay open

She gave a live update in Salt Lake City on Monday morning, saying that students in schools throughout the district are healthier and more able to stay with in-person learning than other students in Salt Lake County because they wear masks.

“At 57 new cases per 10,000 population, Salt Lake City school district has the lowest rate of COVID-19 cases since the first day of school among the county’s five school districts,” Mendenhall said Monday morning.

She said that there has been overwhelming compliance of mask-wearing among students, saying that 99.8% of students are wearing masks in class even though there is no discipline of students if they don’t.

“In short, what we’re doing is working in Salt Lake City,” Mendenhall said. She added she had sent this latest data collected from both the state and county health departments to the City Council members who will be voting on Tuesday whether or not to extend the mask mandate for district schools.

Mendenhall said she is confident that they will vote to continue the masking order.

COVID-19 in Utah schools

Currently, 11% of new COVID-19 cases are in children 14 years old and younger. And 23% occur in young people 15-24, according to data from the Utah Department of Health.

Since the 2021 school year began, over 3,700 school-associated cases of COVID-19 have been reported.  Over 2,500 of those cases were reported in the past two weeks.  Mendenhall says SLCSD currently has the lowest percentage of cases of school districts in Salt Lake County, but she isn’t feeling optimistic about that.

Mendenhall said, “With every new day of data, things actually appear to be getting worse.”

Her main concern is the increase of infected children thanks to the Delta variant.  She says children all across Utah are catching the more infectious strain of the coronavirus, especially since children under the age of 12 can’t get vaccinated, yet.

“Last week alone, 1,373 children ages five to 11 tested positive for COVID-19.  In comparison, during the same time period last year, there were only 95 children who tested positive,” she said.  “In the worst of last winter, children only represented about 12 percent of infections.  Now, they account for about 25 percent.”

Mendenhall says the uptick can be linked to masks not being mandated for most schools in Utah.  She believes her mandate is working to slow the spread of the virus but she says it’s best if officials work with families to convince their children to mask up, instead of using heavy-handed force.

She said, “We have never cited, legally, someone for not complying with that.  That is never our intention, although, it does carry the force of law.”



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