The Summit County Council is poised to extend order allowing school mask requirements |

The Summit County Council is poised to extend order allowing school mask requirements

No school is close to the case-number threshold, according to state data

The Summit County Courthouse
Park Record file photo

The Summit County Council is set to meet Monday to discuss extending the measure that allows the Health Department to mandate masks in elementary schools if a school reaches a certain number of cases of COVID-19.

There had been talk that the council would have a public discussion about the public health emergency order at its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, but on Friday the county announced a special meeting at 3 p.m. Monday to discuss the issue. The current order is set to expire Monday.

It is expected the council will pass a resolution extending the order, and a draft resolution extends it through the end of the year. The agenda for the meeting, which is planned to be held virtually, does not call for public input.

On Aug. 21, Health Director Phil Bondurant declared a local public health emergency, which enabled the Health Department, along with the Summit County manager, to issue a concurrent public health order requiring masks in schools in some situations.

The order requires mask-wearing in elementary schools if 2% of the school population, including students and adults, tests positive for COVID-19 in a 14-day timeframe.

No Summit County schools are reporting that they are close to that threshold.

Council Chair Glenn Wright said he anticipates the meeting will be a short one. He said the county has already received “tons of public input” on the issue of mask-wearing.

“We know where the public stands on it, and the public is divided,” he said. “I would say that the majority of people we have heard from, and my feeling the sentiment in the community is, that mask restrictions are important in the school system. There’s a very vocal minority who is anti- mask, anti-vax.”

Members of the public who oppose governmental efforts to mandate masks or vaccines have consistently commented at County Council meetings in recent weeks. The comments, at times impassioned and personal, have not swayed the council’s support for the measures.

“The public has had a chance to weigh in,” Wright said. “As part of our duty to our community we have to weigh the facts in the matter. And we have weighed the facts and that’s where we’ve come out.”

Public health officials say the delta variant of COVID-19 is more transmissible and that they’re seeing more cases of COVID-19 among school-aged children.

As of Thursday evening, Park City elementary schools were reporting two or fewer cases each. At Parley’s Park Elementary School, for example, which is reporting two positive cases, the 2% threshold would be hit if there were 12 cases diagnosed over a two-week stretch.

North Summit and South Summit school districts are reporting fewer than five cases at their elementary schools, according to state data.

There are questions, however, about the data’s validity.

The database maintained by the Utah Department of Health only displays cases that have been linked to a school, according to the department. The link is established by interviews conducted by local health departments.

“People who refuse or are unable to be interviewed are not associated with schools, so these data are an underestimate of the true burden of COVID-19 in schools,” the department wrote in an explanation on the website where it displays case counts and other data. “In the last two weeks, only 54.5% of cases among 5-17 years old have been linked to a school. … Therefore, recent data is likely less accurate than data in previous time periods when more cases were able to be linked to schools by interview.”

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