SALT LAKE CITY — First, the Provo City Council unanimously passed a mandate requiring masks in public. Then, Mayor Michelle Kaufusi vetoed the mandate. The council then overrode her veto on 6-1 vote, with Travis Hoban voting no. The ordinance comes with a $55 fine for those found in violation of it.
Now a group called Utahans for Medical Freedom (UMF) has filed a referendum in an attempt to overturn the mandate.
The organizer of the group believes requiring Provo residents to wear a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19 is unconstitutional and it must be stopped.
If the group can collect 3,200 signatures, which it needs to be certified, the mandate can be suspended and placed on the ballot in November 2021.
Killing the mask mandate in Provo
Maryanne Nielsen, an organizer of the referendum, joins Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss her group’s work to ban the facemask ordinance in Provo.
“We’re concerned about our constitutional rights being violated. And these illegal mandates being passed on, not just Provo City, but around the nation,” Nielsen said. “We are also concerned about the effects of masks. We are also concerned about future implications this will have on future mandates.”
Host Debbie Dujanovic asked Nielsen to elaborate on how a mask mandate is unconditional.
“The speed limit has been brought up. We have to follow the speed limit or we’ll get a ticket. You can’t yell certain things in a crowded theater that causes a panic. Why is the mask mandate unconstitutional in your view?” asked Debbie.
“We have certain inalienable rights, even God-given rights outside even the Constitution. But I believe the Constitution tries to give us those freedoms to make our own decisions about our own body. And to make our own informed choices on how to take care of our own health,” said Nielsen. “We believe that masks are not helpful in protecting others or ourselves.”
“You can make a study prove anything”
Dave pointed to a recent BYU study on the effectiveness of masks, which found a 90% reduction in influenza viruses after breathing through a mask and a complete removal of coronaviruses.
“Are you making the argument that masks, in general, are not effective?” Dave asked.
“Yes, there have been many studies, prior to BYU’s study, that has proven the ineffectiveness and also the danger of wearing masks,” Nielsen stated. “You can make a study prove anything you want if you twist the results just right.”
“A bigger concern, before we jump to worrying about solutions to stop COVID-19, is looking at if it’s really a danger in our society and in our community that is big enough to be making medical decisions for the public,” Nielsen said.
“We know that hundreds of Utahns have passed away, their deaths being connected to COVID-19,” said Debbie. “We know that thousands of Utahns have contracted COVID-19. Certainly, there are many opinions about COVID-19, but at the same time . . . Is this anything you’re actually going to be able to get on this November’s ballot?”
Nielsen said, according to her research, only 46 people have died from COVID-19 as the main cause of death in Utah County.
Nielsen said the Utah Constitution provides voters of any county, city or town the option of any law or ordinance passed by city lawmakers to be given to voters “as provided by statute” before the law or ordinance goes into effect.
“So it doesn’t sound like it’s a sure thing that you’re going to have it on this November’s ballot,” Debbie said.
“We’re hoping that this could be finished by November 5th of this year, which would only give us a small window of time to do anything,” Nielsen said. “And we’re not sure that this [referendum] is going to be able to stop this [mask mandate] at this point. The problem is that this is creating a scary effect for future referendum attempts because of the short timeline when this mandate is going into effect and now it’s going to expire before —”
“Sorry Mary, we’re out of time. We appreciate you calling in,” Dave said.