In May, the Utah legislature voted to ban school districts from requiring masks in classrooms. Now it is up to local health departments to help schools combat COVID-19.
The Utah Department of Health released a COVID-19 school manual to help schools respond to COVID-19 cases. According to the manual, the two most important things are “What to do if a student, teacher, or employee is exposed to COVID-19 or tests positive” and “How to make a healthy learning environment and protect your school.”
Tim Smith, Public Information Officer for the Cache County School district, said there are several protocols they are asking students and staff to follow but that they can only be recommended, and not enforced unless someone tests positive for COVID-19
“If you are a positive COVID case, you need to remain isolated at home for 10 days, and until your symptoms have subsided," Smith said. "If you are exposed to COVID then the recommendations are that: (a) you stay home and quarantine for 10 days, (b) that you come to school with a mask for 10 days, or (c) that you you come to school with a mask for seven days, on the seventh day you test and if you test negative you can remove your mask. Those are all recommendations," Smith said.
The Bear River Health Department will also be checking the amount of cases for each school to see if 2% of the school’s population is infected with COVID-19 in such cases, the whole school will have to be tested.
A chemistry teacher and father in Utah, Tim (not to be confused with the previous Tim Smith), said that he wasn’t in support of children wearing masks in schools but now is unsure of what the right move is.
Tim said that there are a number of issues with asking children to wear masks because students often wear masks incorrectly and because there is social pressure present as well. He said that students will not want to wear a mask if they see that other students are not wearing a mask as well and will feel pressured to take theirs off. Another reason Tim is conflicted is because of the saturation point of masks.
"If you look at a piece of cloth, there's a point to where it has basically absorbed all that it's going to absorb," Tim said. "It is always going to stop at some point, then when it becomes saturated, basically everything just starts coming out the other side. So for a mask to really work, you have to change them frequently," Tim said.