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PETITIONS AND LETTERS

PETITION TO GOVERNOR COX — 1,307 SIGNATURES

August 17, 2021

Dear Governor Cox,


Thank you for being such a vocal advocate of the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations. Our focus is on the children in our community that are too young to be vaccinated. We realize EAU of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11 could come as early as this fall, but it will take time for the children to receive both doses of the vaccine and wait the additional two weeks to reach full vaccination status. Vaccines are the best first line of defense against COVID-19. However, when a vaccine isn’t available the evidence is clear universal masking offers the second best level of protection. Universal masking significantly decreases secondary transmission of SARS-CoV2 in a classroom setting. 


During the 2020-2021 school year, the SARS-CoV2 variant that was circulating could infect 2-3 new people for every infected person, and universal masking was mandated in our schools. This was in conjunction to other mitigation strategies such as physical distancing and plexiglass barriers. These measures made Utah's 2020-21 school year one of the least disrupted in the country by facilitating a safe learning environment for our children and far fewer missed school days.


This school year, 2021-2022, the SARS-CoV2 variant that is circulating now can infect 5-8 new people for every infected person. It is at least twice as contagious. The CDC website also states, “In two different studies from Canada and Scotland, patients infected with the Delta variant were more likely to be hospitalized than patients infected with Alpha or the original virus strains.” And yet physical distancing in classrooms is no longer a priority, plexiglass barriers have been removed, and—most astonishingly—the proven mitigation strategy of universal masking will NOT be in place. 


For the safety of all children too young to be vaccinated, it is imperative that masks be required in all school settings where children under 12 are present. Children under the age of 12 are being offered no protections this school year except for a few KN95 masks. Without the wearing of masks enforced in the classroom, a child wearing a KN95 mask with a low percentage of masked classmates will not have close to the same level of protection as universal masking. Children that wear masks even may face bullying and succumb to peer pressure to remove their mask. We appreciate your willingness to order KN95 masks for all Utah children, but this step is inadequate without a universal mask mandate. 


Top medical experts from the University of Utah, Intermountain Healthcare, and Primary Children’s Hospital have been unequivocally clear that universal masking is paramount, especially in light of their current staffing issues and full capacities. The healthcare workers in our state need to know you are willing to use your political clout as a buoy to keep them afloat during this incredibly challenging time. When our healthcare systems collapse, a shockwave of negative repercussions will be felt throughout our state. 


We are pursuing ways to protect our children until they can be fully vaccinated. We hope that you will soon be able to implement a health order requiring universal masking in all schools that teach children under 12. 


We have a call to action for you now though. Utilize the power bestowed upon you by the people of our great state to issue a temporary health order requiring universal masking until your promised KN95 masks have arrived and are distributed to our children. We need your help to protect our children.


Sincerely,

A coalition of concerned parents and citizens of Utah

PETITION TO UTAH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS - 700 SIGNATURES

August 11, 2021

Dear Utah County Commissioners:


We represent a coalition of concerned parents and citizens from across Utah County.

We stand for personal freedom, but we are aware that as a community the personal choices we make can have a direct impact on another person’s freedom. A decision to not mandate masks will have unintended negative consequences in both the immediate school community and the community at large. Public health must supersede individual preferences.


It is our job as adults in this community to protect our children and create a safe, uninterrupted learning environment for them. It is the job of school boards to govern the student bodies entrusted to them. It is the job of local and state health departments to implement necessary measures to protect the citizens of our state. We owe it to ourselves, our children, and the citizens of Utah to do what is right in this situation and defer to the people who have dedicated their lives to studying public health and medicine by implementing a universal mask policy in elementary schools until children under age 12 are able to be fully vaccinated. Frankly, a decision to overrule local public health departments’ orders or not allow local school boards to make decisions based on local parents' concerns will have consequences that will cost our state in unimaginable ways, not the least of which is a loss of trust in our leadership. 


We are in a quickly evolving public health crisis. Our current Covid-19 case count and positive test percentages are significantly higher than this same time last year. Furthermore, the Delta variant, responsible for 95% of our current cases, is much more contagious than the original virus. One person with the Delta variant of Covid-19 will infect 6-9 others on average, but according to Infectious Disease doctor Todd Vento with IHC, that rate is likely higher in a classroom setting. In contrast, people who had original Covid-19 infected an average of just 2-3 others, and those with the flu only infect 1-2. By allowing each parent to decide whether or not their child wears a mask to school, you’re discounting proven public health mitigation measures right when we need them most, and taking a grave risk that could have dire consequences.


Last year, elected officials and the public pushed to see if we could return to in-person school safely. We proved we could with masks. Last winter, during the peak of our Covid-19 surge, the CDC conducted a study in 20 Salt Lake County elementary schools from Dec 3, 2020 to Jan 31, 2021. The study found that, “despite high community incidence and an inability to space students’ classroom seats ≥6 ft apart, this investigation found low SARS-CoV-2 transmission and no school-related outbreaks in 20 Salt Lake County elementary schools with high student mask use and implementation of multiple strategies to limit transmission.”  It is paramount that until children under the age of 12 can be fully vaccinated, we implement the CDC and the Utah Department of Health recommendations of universal masking in our schools.


Dr. Andrew Pavia, director of hospital epidemiology at Primary Children’s, said, “Having a big surge among children isn’t inevitable. If every classroom has children wearing masks all the time, and if everyone over twelve gets the vaccine, we really don’t have to have a big spread in the schools. But I’m very worried that we’re headed in the direction of doing everything wrong, and we’re going to have a large degree of spread in schools." We simply cannot afford to head in the wrong direction, because the health of our community largely depends on the health and well-being of our children.


We all want children to have a safe and successful school year. One where classes aren’t half-empty as a result of students’ extended absences due to quarantines, unchecked spread of illness, children suffering from long Covid, and the likely isolation periods and recovery from a case of Covid-19. It is important for our kids to have a degree of continuity in their educational experience- that is simply impossible if we refuse to take common sense protective measures.


Continuity of education is also critical for the success of the businesses in our community. 

We don’t want to further burden businesses with school attendance in a constant state of flux that results in their employees having to remain home to care for an ill child, especially in such a tight labor market. Without universal masking children will undoubtedly get infected at school and bring the indisputably more contagious Delta variant home, resulting in the possible infection of family members who are immunocompromised or are one of the 48% of adults or 65% of children age 12-18 who are not fully vaccinated in Utah County. This disruption will not only burden the parents and their employer, but it will have a negative impact on the economy and the community at large.


If we allow Covid-19 to run unmitigated through our young population we also risk overwhelming the staff of our only children’s hospital. Primary Children's Hospital staff has stated in recent press conferences that they are short staffed and already taxed with dealing with a resurgence of other childhood respiratory diseases. Lest we forget, Primary Children’s Hospital is also the referral children’s hospital for 4 states in addition to Utah. Primary Children’s Hospital is now preparing for surge capacity due to the number of children that will require life saving treatment as a result of their Covid-19 infection. This will impact not only the state of Utah, but the other states that rely upon our world class children’s hospital. It will also impact not only children with Covid-19, but children needing specialized hospitalization for any reason.


In Utah County we share common core values where we love, serve, and help one another. That is why we are urging you to protect our children and community at this time. We entrust our leaders to make the right decisions, based on truths, evidence, and input from their constituents. We ask you to vote in favor of precautionary measures and public health mitigation strategies set forth by local health officials at the first opportunity. Don’t wait until you have no choice but to react to an untenable situation of exponential case growth and subsequent school absences that will affect every aspect of life in Utah County. It is your duty as elected officials to protect and safeguard our community, which is why we ask that you support masking requirements now in elementary schools and vaccinations when they become available.


Sincerely,


A coalition of concerned parents and citizens from across Utah County

PETITION TO SALT LAKE COUNTY COUNCIL — 2,584 SIGNATURES

August 10, 2021

Dear Salt Lake County Councilmembers:


We are a group of Salt Lake County parents and citizens concerned about our children’s education and safety this coming school year. We want all children to have a safe and successful year with the fewest risks and interruptions possible. To do that, we are asking members of the County Council to support smart and simple precautionary steps that will help our children stay healthy and strong—including a mask mandate in schools with children under 12 years old who can’t be vaccinated yet.


We face a new challenge this school year. Unfortunately, not enough of our population is vaccinated to provide broad protection against COVID-19, and we now face the more transmissible and dangerous delta variant. We strongly support vaccination efforts as the best way to prevent spread. But no child under 12 years old is eligible for the vaccine, so we need to do more to slow the spread and keep those children safe. Allowing the virus to spread unmitigated through our elementary schools and communities is not acceptable. We need to take proactive measures to mask in schools with children under 12 years old, as recommended by our local public health experts.


Stories from other states hit earlier by the delta variant are beginning to ring true here in Utah. Leading experts across the political spectrum, from current CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky to former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, strongly recommend enforcing COVID-19 mitigation measures in schools—especially in areas of high prevalence like Salt Lake County. Salt Lake County has the opportunity to lead out at the start of the school year with proven and appropriate precautions including masking. They protect all of our children, including those who are vulnerable or high-risk, from negative outcomes of COVID such as long COVID, MIS-C, hospitalization and worse.


Dr. Angela Dunn has warned that, without mitigation efforts, we should expect one child to be hospitalized due to COVID every two days. The ICU of Primary Children’s Hospital, the only pediatric hospital in our region, is already operating at capacity. We cannot afford over-extending it further. Universal masking in K-6 represents a simple and safe solution to keep our hospitals from experiencing catastrophic overcrowding. An overburdened healthcare system is a threat to all our children–one that is avoidable if we act now instead of waiting until it’s too late.


Our Utah values of loving and serving one another call us to action. Together, we can protect one another as we seek to overcome COVID-19. Universal masking in schools with children under 12 years old—until these children can be fully vaccinated—is a temporary, critical measure to help us in this battle. If the Salt Lake County Health Department issues a temporary health order to protect these children, please trust their expertise. Demonstrate your commitment to our community by voting to uphold a county health mandate. 


Thank you.

A coalition of concerned parents and citizens from across Salt Lake County

PETITION TO UTAH STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION — 514 SIGNATURES

August 5, 2021

Dear Utah State School Board Members,


We represent a group of concerned parents and citizens from across the state who are conscious of the need to protect children in school for the 2021-2022 school year. We strongly support vaccination efforts, but vaccines are not yet available to children under 12. This means that our unvaccinated children are at risk for exposure to COVID-19 and particularly the Delta variant as we move into the school year. 


Members of our group are acutely aware of the challenges of COVID-19, either having witnessed the disease’s effects on loved ones or dreading the impact it could have on children who have evaded it to this point. Our unvaccinated children are at risk of being impacted by this disease. The surging Delta variant increases the risk that our children will contract COVID-19 and require hospitalization. In other states where the Delta variant has spread, many children with no comorbidities are being severely affected and hospitalized. In our state, Dr. Angela Dunn estimates that, in Salt Lake County alone without additional preventive measures, we should expect one child hospitalized every two days because of the delta variant - in the sole children’s hospital within our state and region. This is a threat to every child in our state—not only those with comorbidities.


With the delta variant, all of our children are at risk of experiencing severe COVID, long COVID, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). These are serious illnesses that will have real impacts on our kids now and potentially throughout their lives. Without an available vaccine or a mask mandate, we are forcing children and their parents to choose between their physical health and an education with their peers. Parents—and especially children—should not have to make that choice. 


Of course, there are thousands upon thousands of children in Utah who are extra vulnerable to COVID-19 thanks to underlying health conditions. Children with diagnosed conditions including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Children with cancer. Children with Type I diabetes. These include children with diagnosed conditions and children with undiagnosed conditions. They deserve our care and protection. They are no less deserving of an education than children with no known underlying health problems. If we force these children to stay home to protect themselves from COVID-19, we risk losing them instead to the pandemics of loneliness, isolation, achievement gaps, and poor learning outcomes. We are isolating them from their friends and fellow students. We are isolating them from teachers, coaches, school administrators, counselors, and critical resources that we trust to make impacts in their lives. We are depriving students who need them of special education resources. We are keeping them away from physical infrastructure in which we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to create positive learning environments. Parents are doing everything they can to protect these vulnerable children. But they cannot do it alone. 


“The Utah State Board of Education leads by creating equitable conditions for student success: advocating for necessary resources, developing policy, and providing effective oversight and support.” As stated in the mission of the organization, all children deserve equitable conditions for successful educational outcomes. Forcing parents to choose between keeping their children at home to protect against COVID-19 compromises the very mission of Utah’s educational system.


Our children understand the risks that surround them with COVID-19. They have genuine anxiety about the coming school year and about contracting the very disease from which we have been trying to protect them for 18 months. Masks offer real protection for our children, particularly when worn universally. They are a simple and cost-effective solution to reduce the spread of this disease until we can offer them better protection through vaccination.


Utah is a values-based state where we love and serve one another. Let’s reflect those values by protecting our children this school year. Our community can band together to protect our children and our vulnerable populations. You are in a position to help make this a possibility and we are asking you to act in their best interest by supporting masking now and vaccination when it is available. Please provide your support for mask requirements in our schools this fall.


Sincerely,

A coalition of concerned parents and citizens from across Utah