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Where will students have to wear a mask when the school year starts?

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Eighth grade students and their teacher wear masks at Mount Jordan Middle School in Sandy on Jan. 10, 2022.

Eighth grade students and their teacher wear masks during their dual language class at Mount Jordan Middle School in Sandy on Jan. 10, 2022. Some schools in the nation are requiring masks again as COVID-19 case counts rise.

Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

Masks are being required in some schools across the country, including in Kentucky’s largest school district.

With the BA.5 omicron subvariant continuing to drive up COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations throughout the United States, nearly 42% of counties nationwide are now at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s high community level for the virus, where universal masking is recommended.

Which schools are requiring masks?

As of last Monday, schools in Louisville and the rest of Jefferson County, Kentucky, said everyone, regardless of their vaccination status, must mask up on district property and on school buses, The Associated Press reported. Classes are set to start there Aug. 10.

According to school district policy, the Kentucky mask mandate will remain in place until the county is no longer at the CDC’s high community level for COVID-19, which is determined by a combination of case counts and hospital admissions and capacity.

But Kentucky students may not the only ones who’ll have to put masks on their back-to-school lists. The Washington Post reported a number of other school districts nationwide are in a similar situation, including:

  • Gwinnett County, Georgia, part of the Atlanta metropolitan area. More than 20,000 employees will have to wear masks in buildings if the area remains at a high community level when school starts Aug. 3. Students are encouraged but not mandated to mask up because of a recent Georgia law that leaves the decision up to parents.
  • Los Angeles County, California. At a high community level for COVID-19 for several weeks, public health officials had announced an indoor mask mandate would be put in place Friday that would apply to everyone 2 and older in a long list of places including schools, restaurants, gyms, offices and stores, The Los Angeles Times reported.

But L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has suggested recently the county may hold off on imposing the mandate if “we see sustained decreases in cases, or the rate of hospital admissions moves closer to the threshold for medium” COVID-19 community levels, according to the California newspaper.

  • San Diego, California. An indoor mask mandate was ordered during the summer school session on July 18, after the county hit the high community level. But school district officials are waiting to see if that level drops before deciding whether the requirement will stay in place once the school year begins Aug. 29.

Will Utah schools require masks?

In Utah, six counties are currently at a high community level for the virus, Salt Lake, Summit, Tooele, Wasatch, Grand and San Juan, but that could change after Thursday’s weekly COVID-19 update by the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.

State lawmakers have restricted the ability of public health authorities to impost mask mandates and other mitigation measures. As a result, decisions by Salt Lake and Summit counties to require masking during last winter’s record-breaking omicron surge were ultimately overturned by the Utah Legislature.