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Lawmakers halt committee meeting when small group without masks arrive

(Utah State Capitol. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers briefly stopped a legislative committee meeting Monday after a small group of people refusing to wear masks entered the committee room. 

Lawmakers said they were in the middle of a meeting of the Social Services Appropriations Committee when three people without masks on entered the committee room.

In a statement to KSL, members of the committee asked the spectators to put on masks several times to no avail. Soon after, Senator Jake Anderegg (R-Lehi), the co-chair of the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee, paused the meeting to “allow enough time for lawmakers and the public to join the meeting online.” 

Lawmakers later said they weren’t totally surprised something like this occurred. 

“We anticipated these types of situations and have a process in place to go completely virtual to eliminate disruptions and continue with the meeting,” read the statement. 

Lawmakers respond to the no-masks situation

Regardless of personal opinion, Sen. Anderegg said the use of masks inside the Capitol is mandated by the Utah Department of Health. “That [masks] is a health order, and whether I agree with it or not, it is a health order we must comply with,” said Anderegg. 

Representative Paul Ray (R-Clearfield), the House co-chair of the committee, said the reason people need to wear masks while visiting the Capitol is to protect others.

“We bring in people who have underlying health conditions and if you look at the comorbidity issues, that’s most of the audience we have in here [the Capitol],” said Ray. “We need to keep everyone safe.” 

Additionally, lawmakers need public input when drafting legislation. And said there are options for residents to participate in the legislative process if they don’t want to wear a mask. 

“We ask that all those who attend in-person be respectful of others, some who are high-risk, by wearing masks and following all other COVID-19 safety procedures. If individuals would rather not wear a mask, we ask them to participate virtually,” Utah lawmakers said in a statement. 

Related: Public can join Utah legislative process in-person, remote options remain