Utah meeting on masks is canceled when residents without masks pack room

"This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing," a county commissioner said to boos. "We’re supposed to be physically distancing, wearing masks."

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By Ben Kesslen

A public meeting in Utah about a mask policy for schoolchildren was abruptly adjourned when people without masks packed the room.

"This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing," Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge said from the dais of the meeting room in Provo, drawing boos from the audience. "We’re supposed to be physically distancing, wearing masks."

Speaking over loud objections from the audience, Ainge continued, "This gathering violates current health recommendations."

His motion to adjourn was then approved on a 2-to-1 vote, with a commissioner who had organized the meeting dissenting.

Many of the approximately 100 people in the audience stayed, however, with the two other commissioners besides Ainge remaining to hear their concerns about a mandate from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert requiring that all K-12 students wear masks in school, NBC affiliate KSL in Salt Lake City reported.

Residents without masks attend a meeting about masks in Utah County, Utah, on July 15, 2020.Utah County Government via YouTube

“We are perpetuating a lie,” one woman who said she has five grandchildren said. “COVID is a hoax. It’s a lie. It’s a political stunt," The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

A mother suggested that masks cut down on a person’s oxygen, and a father said COVID-19 is no different than the flu, according to the Tribune.

Another parent of two children, ages 10 and 3, said she is concerned that wearing a mask would teach her older child to fear the world and that both of her kids would not learn proper socialization if their faces were covered, the Tribune reported.

“It’s going to rewire their brains,” the mother said. “I’m especially not going to send my son back to have his mind broken.”

The commission meeting had been called to consider a letter asking the state to allow exemptions to the mandate for students, a proposal that Ainge has announced he opposes.

The gathering was held as cases of the coronavirus are climbing in Utah, with more than 30,000 cases recorded and 230 deaths, according to an NBC News tally.

Many at the meeting, in addition to not wearing masks, also ignored taped Xs on the floor intended to serve as guides for social distancing, KSL reported.

A rally prior to the meeting drew about 150 people and included remarks by the commissioner who voted against adjournment, Bill Lee, the Tribune reported. It also featured comments by mask opponents.

“Coronavirus is manmade. It’s a weaponized virus,” said Denna Robertson, one of the rally’s organizers, according to KSL.

“If I’m infected with COVID, it’s because I’ve not been taking care of my immune system. You know how your immune system gets strong? It’s by being in the dirt and getting exposed to bacteria and viruses,” Robertson said.

Protesters held signs that read “Don’t smother the children” and “Let kids be kids.”

Some counterprotesters also showed up, with at least one holding a sign saying, “Wearing a mask is an act of compassion,” according to the KSL report.