CACHE COUNTY – Despite the recent increase in COVID-19 case counts in the local Bear River Health District, the members of the Cache County Council have voiced no support for a renewed mask mandate in public schools.
At Tuesday’s regular council meeting, County Executive David Zook reported that BRHD Director Jordan D. Mathis had contacted him to solicit the opinions of county officials about a resumption of a mask order for school children.
“He has been receiving a lot of pressure from county residents to mandate masks in schools when they go back into session,” Zook explained. “(Mathis) wanted to get some insight into what the county’s position would be on that idea.
“He is planning a response to the residents who have reached out to him requesting a mask mandate. I don’t think that Jordan is inclined to issue any mask mandate, but if you have on input on the topic, he’d love to hear it.”
Council chair Gina Worthen was quick to voice her opinion.
“I don’t know how other council members feel about this,” she stated flatly, “but I’m adamantly opposed to mandating masks.
“If the rest of the council members are like me, they have received e-mails begging for a mask mandate and others begging us not to issue such an order.
“I think that the freedom we have in this country is vital. I don’t believe that we should be mandating masks. I think people should take personal responsibility as they see fit.”
“We’re behind you,” council member Gordon Zilles added, speaking on behalf of other members of the county panel.
In fact, the only council member who seemed remotely interested in the prospect of discussing masks was Paul Borup, who said he would be delighted to have former state epidemiologist Angela Dunn appear at a county council meeting to debate the efficacy of masks.
“I’d love to have her come up here so that we could ask her some questions,” Borup said. “That’s all I’ll say about that.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, Zook explained that state law now gives the director of the local health department the authority to issue a mask mandate “under certain circumstances.” But any such order can be over-ruled by the county executive or a vote by members of the county council.
The topic of mask mandates has always been a matter of some dispute here in Cache Valley.
Early in the coronavirus outbreak, Logan Mayor Holly Daines imposed a citywide mask mandate that even her own city council declined to fully support.
Local debate about mask wearing in public was not fully settled until a statewide mask mandate was issued by former Gov. Gary Herbert in response to Dunn’s advice last summer.
Even then, the topic of requiring school children to wear masks has remained controversial.
Discussion of that topic has resumed, however, as a result of recent increases of COVID-19 cases, especially among unvaccinated young adults.