‘Impossible choices’: Lawsuit filed over Utah’s mask mandate bans argues it’s unconstitutional

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Several Utahns including the Utah Concerned Coalition have filed a lawsuit suing the state of Utah and Salt Lake County over restrictions on mask requirements in schools.

Several parents are a part of this lawsuit.

The lawsuit says HB 1007 and SB 195 violate the rights of at-risk children like those who are immunocompromised, in Utah, to access a free education under the state’s constitution.

Greg Skordas, the attorney who filed this lawsuit, said it’ll now be settled in court. 

Around 10 parents and the Utah Concerned Coalition said the state legislature has neglected its duty to prevent the spread of an infectious disease.

In this case, it’s COVID-19.

“That choice by our elected leaders has robbed my family and many other at-risk Utahns of their choices,” said plaintiff Jessica Pyper. “We deserve better.”

Several parents said politicians should not decide the fate of masks in schools. They said they want local boards of health and medical experts to decide. 

“We all wish the pandemic was over but this won’t end without taking the necessary precautions to slow this deadly virus,” said co-founder of the Utah Concerned Coalition Jenny Nazzaro.

“State laws enacted last spring have compounded these burdens and forced us to make impossible choices; impossible choices no family should have to make,” said Pyper.

The Salt Lake County Health Department tried to issue a mask mandate.

It was shut down by the county council.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall asked the Salt Lake City School District to issue a mask mandate for schools but the district voted no.

This prompted Mayor Mendenhall to pass an emergency order requiring masks must be worn in all Salt Lake City K-12 schools. 

Her office issued this statement:

“State law allows cities to take emergency measures to keep people safe in crises like this, and that’s exactly what we’ve done here to protect the health and safety of schoolchildren and the vulnerable people with whom they interact. It’s what the law says we can do, and it’s what doctors and scientists are telling us we should do in order to keep hospitals, businesses, and schools open and running as this emergency continues to unfold and claim lives.”

Chris Phillips is the co-founder of the three-week-old not-for-profit Utah Concerned Coalition.

He said Utahns need to set aside politics to help make a clear decision. 

“Our kids are not pawns in a war against COVID-19,” said Phillips. “We have a common enemy. Our enemy is not other parents. Our enemy is not other parents’ kids. Our enemy is this disease and until we figure out how to rally together to fight this thing the right way we are not going to get rid of it.”

Skordas saith this process should go quickly.

He filed to have this lawsuit expedited in court.

The bills, House Bill 1007 and Senate Bill 195 passed earlier this year allow a local health department to issue an emergency order like a mask mandate but it can be overturned by a county commission or council or for example in Salt Lake City the order must be approved after 30 days by the state legislature or city council.

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