PROVO – Things got testy over masks before the Utah County Commission meeting again.
Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee had wanted his fellow commissioners to support a letter to the health department, urging them to ask the state to give students an exemption to Utah’s mask mandate.
But Lee pulled the request from Wednesday’s agenda after the state updated its guidelines, giving compassionate exemptions to children for things like asthma or other medical conditions.
“I was trying to find a balance, a compromise, realizing that one side or the other side’s not going to get everything,” Lee explained of his change of heart.
The decision not to discuss the letter disappointed people who showed up to the commission meeting, leading to a sort of impromptu, testy town hall beforehand.
Many in the crowd questioned why they were not being allowed to speak about the letter and the mask mandate at that time.
Some also asked whether commissioners were truly representing Utah County and who had the authority to authorize a mask mandate.
Others said mandates are a violation of freedom, while one woman compared children’s compliance with mask mandates to the Nazis’s Brown Shirt recruitment efforts.
When a question was raised whether anyone in the audience was allowed to be in the commission chambers because of COVID-19 restrictions, at least one man in the crowd shouted, “We’re not leaving!”
Commissioner Tanner Ainge, who never supported the letter, grew more frustrated and hit back at charges the commission went back on its word to discuss the matter.
“In my opinion, [the letter] should have never been on this agenda…We continued the agenda [from July 15th], and it was on the agenda until Commissioner Lee took it off yesterday,” Ainge said.
The Utah County Commission meeting on July 15th was shut down after just 70 seconds when more than 100 people showed up with no masks and did not social distance.
He also disputed whether the opinions of the people in the audience represented the majority of Utah County residents.
Though people eventually left the commission chambers, and the meeting itself went smoothly, Commissioner Lee also promised the crowd to hold a town hall on the mask issue.
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