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School mask mandates to be removed after New Year’s

Schoolgirl in face mask working in class
Iakov Filimonov (JackF)/JackF - stock.adobe.com
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Citing the local vaccination rate and new tools to manage the pandemic, the Summit County Health Director said the county will remove public health orders that impose mask mandates in schools in certain conditions.

Summit County's school mask mandates will lapse Dec. 31, according to the Health Director.

Summit County Health Director Phil Bondurant started his presentation to the County Council on Wednesday with direct words.

“Tonight’s presentation is not a declaration COVID is over,” he said.

Bondurant was suggesting the county do away with the mask mandates that trigger in the county's elementary and middle schools if they reach a certain number of COVID-19 cases.

He presented a series of graphs and charts that showed the county’s vaccination rates, the disparities in hospitalization among the vaccinated and unvaccinated and the relatively steady number of cases among those who have been vaccinated.

He framed the conversation as a look at how the county would move forward and deal with COVID-19 as a disease that remains present in the community in low levels.

Bondurant said the county is well above the threshold for herd immunity against COVID-19, with 84% of the population fully vaccinated. Only 45% of those aged 5-11 have received the first dose of the vaccine, however.

It is up to Bondurant and County Manager Tom Fisher to issue orders like mask mandates. County Councilors did not speak against the proposal. They told Bondurant to closely watch the progress of the virus — particularly hospitalizations and hospital capacity — and react with measures as necessary.

The council voted unanimously to extend separate health orders through June 30. Those "public health emergency orders" must be in place for measures like mask mandates to be issued.

Bondurant recommended the mask mandates lapse Dec. 31. He said the superintendents of the North Summit, South Summit and Park City School Districts supported the measure.

Even without a mask mandate in place, schools remain under a test-to-stay requirement if 30 students at any school test positive in a two-week span. Bondurant said that sort of testing program had worked well when implemented in other Utah school districts.