As of Thursday morning, more than 3.5 million people in the U.S. have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 137,000 have died, and nearly all health experts agree that face coverings are essential to reducing the spread of Covid-19, yet some Americans are gathering to loudly proclaim that they will not be forced to wear a mask.
Roughly 150 demonstrators gathered at an anti-mask rally in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, with some carrying posters that read “Don’t smother the children” and “Let kids be kids. No masks!”
Also in Utah on Wednesday, angry parents packed into a County Commission meeting in Provo, pulling tape off the seats meant to maintain social distancing, and for almost two hours railed against a mask mandate Gov. Gary Herbert issued last week after he earlier said that schools would open for in-person learning this fall.
“We are perpetuating a lie,” said Denna Robertson, 65, of Provo, who has five grandchildren. “Covid is a hoax. It’s a lie. It’s a political stunt.”
In Windermere, Florida, anti-mask protesters gathered outside a grilled-cheese shop on Saturday to support the owner after she announced that she wouldn’t require face coverings inside her restaurant and promised “100 free meals for patrons who come without any masks.”
An anti-mask group that claims “mask mandates are a tool to spread fear” is hosting the “Unmasking Tyranny Wisconsin” rally outside of the Department of Health Services building next Thursday (more than 550 people have marked they are interested in attending the event).
“We see one group’s protests being condoned, and another group’s right to peacefully protest being vilified. We are done cooperating with these outrageous overreaches and abuses of power by our Elected Officials,” said Wisconsin Against Medical Tyranny in a statement, the group organizing Thursday’s rally.
On Wednesday, Texas set a record for new coronavirus cases (10,791) while Arizona and Alabama set new death records. Florida reported a record-high 156 additional Covid-related deaths Thursday. Half of all U.S. states currently have statewide mask mandates in place. However, in Georgia, where cases and hospitalizations are rising, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Wednesday night banning cities from enacting their own mask mandates. In response, Savannah’s Democratic mayor, Van Johnson, tweeted, “It is officially official. Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us.” Last month, more than 150 protesters gathered outside City Hall in Scottsdale, Arizona, to protest mask mandates. When first introduced at the rally, Councilman Guy Phillips shouted, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” before ripping off his mask. Republican Daniel McCarthy, who is running for the U.S. Senate, also spoke at the rally and described mask-wearing mandates as a “communist insurrection.”
6.3%: Despite making up less than 0.003% of the world’s total population, Florida accounted for more than 6% of the world’s new reported coronavirus cases this past weekend.
Several sheriffs in multiple states have declared that they will refuse to enforce mask mandates issued by local government officials. In western Washington, a Republican sheriff told residents, “Don’t be a sheep!” in response to Gov. Jay Inslee’s order that residents must wear face coverings in public.
“This is a virus that is very well contained,” said one of the demonstrators in Florida, anti-mask activist Tara Hill. “Everyone is responsible for their own healthcare decisions. . . . We want our choices respected as well.”
As she walked up to the podium to speak, one of the moms at the County Commission meeting in Provo grabbed a face mask and spit out her gum into it. “It’s garbage,” she shrugged, wadding it up. “It doesn’t work anyway. Not for me, and not for my kids.”
“I really do believe if the American public all embraced masking now . . . I really do think over the next four to six, eight weeks, we can bring this epidemic under control,” said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Tuesday.