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Parents protest rumored mask mandate, but Salt Lake County officials weren't issuing one

Around 100 parents showed up to the Salt Lake County Council work session to protest rumors of a mask mandate -- rumors that turned out to be false.

Around 100 parents showed up to the Salt Lake County Council work session to protest rumors of a mask mandate -- rumors that turned out to be false. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The same day Gov. Spencer Cox urged Utahns to seek vaccination for COVID-19 and urged the wearing of masks in the meantime, a large crowd of parents showed up in force to protest a Salt Lake County mask mandate at a council work session on Tuesday.

The only problem was, no mask mandate was on the agenda, and the doctor who leads the Salt Lake County Health Department said she had no plans to issue one.

Meeting flooded with parents in opposition to masks in schools

The executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, Dr. Angela Dunn, said she never planned to issue a mask mandate at this meeting, despite rumors online to the contrary.

The rumor appears to have originated from a post on a Facebook group titled Utah Parents United. It told followers Dunn planned to speak at the work session to address "health orders," shared a previous video of Dunn speaking, and encouraged followers to contact their county council representatives.

"…we encourage parents to make sure that the Salt Lake County Council hears your voice along with those voices who have made it clear they want to mask children," the post stated. "Remember the county council cannot issue a mask mandate only the health department can."

While the post called on supporters to email council members, instead, around 100 people showed up at the work session to protest.

Dr. Dunn: No mask mandate in the works

Dunn says she will not issue a mask mandate for K-12 schools in Salt Lake County, unless the county council is on board.

"(I) don't plan to recommend any mandate that you guys would overturn immediately. Our parents, our teachers our students, don't need that drama to play out publicly," Dunn told the council during its work session Tuesday. "...It's so important for us to be aligned in this, and I definitely respect that."

Recently, Utah's state legislature amended the state's emergency powers to say that a county health department can issue a 30-day health order, or emergency declaration like a mask mandate, as long as local elected officials approve. A county council can also overturn any health order immediately.

Monday, state health officials recommended students wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at school this fall, but in line with the legislation forbidding a blanket mask mandate, did not order anyone to do so. Tuesday, Gov. Spencer Cox said KN95 masks would be made available to students who would like one.

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