A meeting to discuss safely reopening Utah schools during the pandemic was speedily adjourned when at least 100 adults crowded into a small boardroom, mostly not wearing masks and occasionally espousing right-wing conspiracy theories about coronavirus being a “hoax.”
NBC News reports that Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge was booed while telling attendees “This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing.”
He left after board members voted 2-1 to adjourn the meeting after roughly three minutes. Many congregants stayed behind to air their grievances.
The crux of the get-together in Provo, Utah was to discuss a mandate from the governor requiring schoolkids to wear masks in class to limit the spread of coronavirus, which has killed more tan 130,000 people in the U.S. and is spreading.
A 65-year-old grandmother of five was one of many skeptical voices in the room, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
“We are perpetuating a lie,” Denna Robertson claimed. “COVID is a hoax. It’s a lie. It’s a political stunt.”
Penny Brown, a mother of two, said she feared exposing her kids to the chemicals schools would be using to sanitize classrooms. She also worried that wearing masks would prohibit children’s ability to socialize in a healthy way.
“It’s going to rewire their brains,” she said. “I’m especially not going to send my son back to have his mind broken.”
Others shouted about “freedom” and “tyranny.”
Some attendees reportedly wore “Trump 2020” caps and carried American flags into the meeting.
Kathy Thompson — a teacher — also opposed having kids return to school in masks. She argued that students aren’t allowed to wear masks to school on Halloween and that rule should extend to the pandemic.
Another teacher, Bayley Goldsberry, whose husband is also an educator, said she would feel safer starting her first year as a teacher at Maple Mountain High School in the fall if staff and students wore masks. Attendees reportedly shouted over people like Goldsberry, who sided with science. The Centers for Disease Control has concluded that masks greatly reduce the spread of the virus.
Anti-maskers in the room told Goldsberry to get a different job.
Protesters outside the hearing reportedly called wearing a mask “an act of submission” and claimed “Jesus gives us a choice.”
America’s anti-mask movement is a curiosity to much of the world. Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole claimed in April that for the first time, the world feels “pity” for the U.S. on account of its handling of the pandemic.