In May 2021, the Utah State Legislature passed HB 1007 prohibiting the University of Utah, among other public schools in the state, from mandating masks on campus. When Rep. Peterson presented this bill on the house floor, he did not cite medical evidence or transmission rates or case counts. His reasoning was that we have grown sick of wearing masks. It’s true, I’m sick of wearing a mask. I ache for normal social interaction without masks. I want to go to class and see my fellow classmates’ faces. However, being sick of wearing our masks will not make the pandemic go away — it will do the opposite. Some states in the U.S. are doing very well with their COVID-19 transmission rates. Utah is not. Our vaccination rates are low and our transmission rates right now are high. According to the CDC, our transmission rates in Salt Lake County are high.
We need to wear masks, now more than ever. I have been vaccinated and I don’t think I am transmitting the virus. However, I can’t be sure of that. Current CDC guidelines ask us to wear a mask indoors in groups of people. So, I wear a mask whenever I’m indoors with a group of people. Because I respect them and I respect the people they live with and love. Wearing my mask does not protect me, it protects you.
The legislature made a mistake in passing this stringent legislation, before we knew how prevalent the Delta variant would be, and that we would be entering a fall semester at high risk for infection and transmissions. When Rep. Peterson presented the bill, he tried to use the mental health of Utah students to justify banning mask mandates. He thought the best thing for our mental health is to be free from our masks. He was wrong. We know the best thing is to come to school without worrying about transmitting or contracting COVID-19.
More than anything I want a semester where I can focus on school, friends and my future career. We have a way to do this. Wear a mask indoors. Wear a mask in class. Mask up for your friends and peers. It’s a sign of respect for your colleagues, fellow students and professors. It’s incredibly easy. And it’s our best chance of having a normal semester.
The legislature has prevented our university from requiring masks. Our teachers can’t take away grades. Our administration can’t prohibit us from coming to class. All they can do is ask us to take this small action to show respect for each other. And they have asked.
Let us rise to the call and make the U a safe space for all where we can come together to learn.
— Anna Meredith-Edman, University of Utah student
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