Utah's mask mandate lifts on April 10, but schools across the state will remain masked through the end of the school year.
The passage of House Bill 294 in the state legislature amended the governor’s pandemic emergency powers such as mask mandates and other orders related to COVID-19. It is contingent on reaching certain thresholds including positivity rates, vaccination distribution, intensive care unit bed capacities, and other criteria.
The bill allows health departments to issue emergency orders with approval from the county council. It continues to enable Gov. Spencer Cox to declare a state of emergency but with a repeal date included.
Even though the state mask mandate will lift on April 10, K-12 schools will require masks through the end of the school year. For North Summit Superintendent Jerre Holmes, that’s problematic.
"For those anti-maskers any way, this is going to be a nightmare for us because they this, they've been pretty quiet during the winter,” he said. “But this resurrects the whole thing."
Holmes is not opposed to wearing masks in schools but thinks the message is very confusing when the mandate is expiring for all other gatherings.
"Standing it and accepting it are two different things, and that's one of my concerns is, people can go anywhere in the state without a mask on a trip, we can't do it in schools, and it's not that I'm not wanting, so much to get rid of the masks in schools yet,” he said. “In August, I'll be fighting if we're still having to do it, but for now, I wish it would be liquid in June for everyone, so if there isn't a discrepancy, the confusion of a kid saying, I can go to my church on Sunday and not have to wear a mask, but I can't go to my school."
Schools will have no authority to change the mask mandate for students or staff. However, Holmes said when parents and students realize the order is still in effect at schools, but not in the community, he and his team will take the brunt of the protest.
"I want us to get out of this as fast as we can, and yet I understand that safety still is a part of it,” he said. “And we want to do our part, citizenship-wise, but it's going to be a battle."
The state of Utah has opened up vaccination appointments to all residents over the age of 18. 16 and 17-year old patients may only receive the Pfizer vaccine. Visit vaccinefinder.org for details.