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Utah mask order addresses concerns; exemption request nixed

July 31, 2020 GMT

PROVO, Utah (AP) — The Utah County Commission will no longer consider a letter requesting that the county health department ask the governor to grant the county exemptions to the statewide public K-12 school mask mandate after a new state order seemingly addressed all concerns.

The commission was set to consider the letter written by Commissioner Bill Lee to the Health Department Director Ralph Clegg asking that he request Republican Gov. Gary Herbert exempt the county from the one-size-fits-all mask mandate for public schools, The Daily Herald reported.

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The letter was written after the commission received concerns from parents about the statewide order.

The July 15 meeting lasted just over a minute and drew people who crowded into a room without masks, delaying the meeting due to public health concerns and sparking widespread attention.

Lee later pulled the letter, which was an agenda item at the meeting, after a state public health order issued July 17 “clarified every single thing” he was asking for.

The order is effective until Dec. 31 and requires masks be worn by teachers, students and faculty in public school buildings and on buses, but clarifies a number of exemptions.

Those exemptions include children under 3, people with medical conditions preventing them from wearing a facial covering, students practicing social distancing and students eating and drinking outdoors.

There are now plans to hold a town hall meeting at the Utah Valley Convention Center Aug. 5 for residents, but it is not intended to be an anti-mask gathering, Lee said. He hopes residents come with questions, thoughts or comments about masks in schools.

A previously planned town hall was canceled after it received mixed reactions from the superintendents.

The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but can also be detected in people without symptoms. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

In other coronavirus developments:

— The Salt Lake City School District Board of Education has announced that its schools will start the year with all online-only classes, making it the only district in the state to not offer in person classes, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The board voted 6-1 to approve the decision Thursday in response to an increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city.

Board President Melissa Ford said that schools will start online Sept. 8 under a two-week delay to give teachers, parents and students time to prepare. Any reopening plans are expected to align with either the midway mark or end of a quarter to not disrupt classes and grading.