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Utah school district to recommend - but not require - masks

May 13, 2021 GMT

MORGAN, Utah (AP) — A school district in Utah is going against a continuing public health order and no longer requiring facial coverings in K-12 schools, officials said.

The Morgan School District school board voted Tuesday to change its mask policy to a recommendation that students and faculty wear masks, instead of a requirement, the Standard-Examiner reported.

It is one of at least seven school districts in Utah to scale back mask requirements, including a similar move made by the Washington County School District last week.

The decision came after several residents and students criticized the mandate during public comment sessions. They argued the mandate infringes on the rights of parents.

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The most recent state public health order signed last week says staff and students must wear masks on school buses and school property unless engaged in exempt activities. People with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent the use of facial coverings are also exempt.

The order is in place until June 15 or the last day of school, whichever comes first.

Some have argued providing written exemptions documenting medical, mental health or other conditions could limit future opportunities.

Brigham Spens, a student-athlete at Morgan High School, said he has been tested for COVID-19 10 times and has not yet tested positive, despite never covering his nose. Spens has since requested a mask exemption and no longer wears a facial covering. He said he now notices teachers and other students keeping their distance, making it “really hard to get help and excel in school.”

Some educators have argued to keep the mandate because many people rely on others to wear them.

“We only have a few more weeks left. It has kept our kids safe. We’ve been able to stay in session. We’re OK with just the status quo,” Mountain Green Elementary School Principal Heidi Andreasen said.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, breathing trouble, sore throat, muscle pain and loss of taste or smell. Most people develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia. Sometimes people with a coronavirus infection display no symptoms.