GRAND COUNTY, Utah, Aug. 16, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Grand County has introduced a K-6 mask mandate for at least the first 30 days of school.
A letter was sent to staff, students, parents, guardians, and citizens of Grand County from the South East Utah District Health Department, the Grand County Commission, the Grand County School District, and Moab Regional Hospital regarding the K-6 mandate.
The letter says: “We have watched as schools around the country have opened in the past several weeks, and one thing has become clear — COVID-19 and its variants are making younger patients ill, sometimes critically ill, at a higher rate than has previously been seen during this pandemic. We know that pediatric ICUs are filling up with young, critically ill COVID-19 patients. In Texas, for instance, as schools have opened, pediatric case counts have climbed dramatically, and physicians have had tremendous difficulty finding ICU beds for their patients. Some have even had to arrange for their patients to be flown out of state to find a bed. Imagine the difficulty and heartache that would pose to parents.”
GCSD is one of the few districts in the country that was able to be open for in-person instruction all year, the letter says.
“In order to realize that result, GCSD staff implemented many mitigation measures,” the letter adds. “One of those measures was a K-12 mask mandate. However, during the last legislative session, the Utah Legislature enacted a law prohibiting local school districts/boards from enacting a mask mandate. The law allows a local health department to enact a temporary (30 day) mask mandate that then needs approval from the local county government.”
This school year, the decision has been made to enact a mandatory indoor K-6 mask mandate created by the SEUDHD.
“By enacting a mandatory indoor K-6 mask mandate, we are collectively choosing to set GCSD students on a positive path so that they can continue to benefit from in-person schooling, and even more importantly, to have increased protection from a deadly virus,” the letter says.
The indoor K-6 mask mandate will begin on the first day of school, Aug. 19, and remain in effect for 30 days.
“During the 30 days, case counts in Grand County will be closely monitored, and if necessary, the mask mandate will be renewed,” the letter says. “The mask mandate is specifically for GCSD’s K-6 student population because they, unlike 12-18-year-old students, are unable to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Once a vaccine for 5 to 12 year olds is approved, and students and their parents have the opportunity to decide whether to receive the vaccine or not, it is likely there will be no further mask mandates.”
The letter concludes: “Thank you for your support in complying with this new K-6 mask mandate. We stand at a crossroads and are choosing to take the path most likely resulting in safer, healthier students. We owe it to our children to protect them. Each student, every day.”
On Thursday, the majority of the Salt Lake County Council voted to overturn the health department’s K-6 mask mandate. The Legislature still holds the power to overturn the Council’s decision.