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San Juan schools remove doctor’s note requirement for mask exemption

WINDOW ROCK

The San Juan (Utah) School District last week removed a mandate requiring a note from a doctor to allow a student to attend school without a facemask.

Students may now show a note from a parent stating they have a medical condition that would be made worse by wearing a face covering.

The new rule will not affect schools on the reservation, which are still in virtual mode.

San Juan School District Superintendent Ron Nielson said Monday the change, also made in the Kane County school district, is in line with state policies that require either a doctor’s or parent’s note for kids to go maskless.

Nielson said the board was under pressure from parents to remove the doctor’s-orders mandate.

“As you know, there are a lot of different perspectives, different opinions on mask wearing,” he said. “The board has tried to stay a middle path.”

He estimated that in the past week the number of students not wearing masks at Blanding and Monticello schools has increased from about 40 to about 100 out of the 550 or so students who are attending school in person.

Nielson said two or three students tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

The laxer mask rule caused many students to have to quarantine, as the district policy is that anyone who wasn’t wearing a mask and came in contact with an infected student has to quarantine.

“This week will be the real test,” said Nielson, noting COVID-19’s three- to 14-day incubation period. “I think if the numbers continue to climb, we may have to rethink the decision. If the numbers stay low, we’ll probably stay the course.”

Former San Juan County commissioner Mark Maryboy called the new rule “dangerous” and accused the board of kowtowing to religious people who “don’t believe in COVID.”

Diné board members Nelson Yellowman and Lucille Cody did not return an email asking for comment.


About The Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at cyurth@navajotimes.com.

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