The Utah County Commission had to cancel a meeting about masks after a crowd of maskless people came to protest the safety mandate for schools
On Wednesday, July 16, the Utah County Commission tried to conduct a meeting to discuss the statewide mask policy for schools, but the meeting quickly went haywire. A video obtained by The Washington Post shows commission chair Tanner Ainge attempting to have a dialogue with a large group of irate people, most of whom refused to wear masks inside the crowded room.
“This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing. We are supposed to be physically distancing, wearing masks,” Ainge said into the microphone. He was quickly met with “boo”s and shouting from the crowd. Even though some of Utah’s Republican politicians, Mormon leadership and big corporations like Walmart have come around to wearing masks as a scientifically-proven way to help stop the spread of COVID-19, this group in Provo, Utah, continues to show that many still feel like mask protocol is some kind of violation of freedom. The Washington Post reports that someone in the room held up a sign that said “Let kids be kids, no masks.”
“All of our medical experts, our department of health — everyone is encouraging us to [wear masks]. This room not complying with these health guidelines creates a health concern for this meeting, so I’m going to suspending the rules, and I’m going to make a motion to continue this entire meeting to another date,” Ainge told the crowd.
“The mandate for the children to wear masks is baloney. We have the right to make our own choices,” Cynthia Harding, a woman living in Provo told the Salt Lake Tribune.
Utah County’s Commissioner Bill Lee himself advocated for the right for Utah County citizens to choose whether or not they wear a mask when he organized an anti-mask rally in Provo, Utah. Just this week, per The Washington Post, he introduced a proposal that asks state health officials for “compassionate exemptions” from the mask mandate. “We’ve got to have a lot more conversation on this. [The order] doesn’t really fit the functionality of schools…We’ve got to have the ability to be compassionate with others,” he told The Washington Post, failing to explain why masks don’t fit the functionality for schools, or why asking people to wear masks is not compassionate.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen pushback to masks. As COVID-19 cases continue to rapidly spread across the country, many Americans have belligerently stood their ground, refusing to wear face coverings. As of Sunday, the U.S. has averaged 700 deaths a day, according to CNBC. Additionally, 19 states saw new cases hit daily records, which includes Texas, Florida, and Georgia. “Let me be blunt; too many countries are headed in the wrong direction,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced at a news conference. In Utah alone, 413 more cases and seven more deaths were confirmed on Wednesday. According to KSL, that’s a 1.4 percent increase in positive cases since Tuesday.
“When people sense that another person is trying to control their decision, some people are going to act out against that control, whereas others are going to go along with it,” Dr. Vaile Wright, senior director of Health Care Innovation at the American Psychological Association, explained to USA TODAY. Dr. Wright also added that some are feeling “tired” and “scared,” which may explain some of the irrational behavior we’re seeing. While it may explain it, it doesn’t justify it.
Dr. Wright told USA TODAY that people need to stop seeing the mask mandate as some sort of freedom being taken away. She said people should consider wearing masks a “selfless act to help others.” Dr. Wright said, “Our role as citizens is to be responsible. Our freedom comes with responsibility, and this is one of those responsibilities to protect the public.”