UTAH COUNTY (ABC4 News) – A week after his controversial meeting was called off about mandatory masks for K-12 schools, Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee is speaking out.
Lee released a statement on Thursday. In it, he states “I have never asked for or promoted a full exemption from the K-12 mask mandate.”
In an interview with ABC4 Lee said, “I crafted a letter and it’s just a letter asking as a compassionate exemption to this mandate, and it deals with health issues primarily health issues of the students.”
At the time of the meeting, the state mandate which has language in it to address health issues hadn’t officially passed yet.
“It was an ask to the governor to consider that,” said Lee. “I know some are saying that was already in there. It was kind of verbally in there. I didn’t see a written portion of it until the Friday after our Wednesday meeting.”
Lee had this to say about face coverings. “I am not anti-mask. I think masks play a role and a part in what we’re trying to accomplish.”
On July 17th, Governor Gary Herbert issued a statewide mask mandate for K-12 students amid the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to it, Lee says hundreds of concerned parents were reaching out to the county about it asking for clarification as students prepare to return back to class.
“You have people on one side and you have people on the other side, and you’re trying to find something in between, and as you try to do that it ticks off both sides,” said Lee.
People for and against mask-wearing for students showed up at Lee’s public gathering last Wednesday before a commission meeting.
“It’s been reported that I took the mask down because they were yelling take the mask down,” said Lee. “No, that was my choice.”
Tensions were raised further when the group crowded inside the commission building.
It was called off by fellow Commissioner Tanner Ainge when people weren’t wearing masks or physically distancing.
“I asked people in that outside meeting, I asked people please when you come into the meeting we have taped off chairs,” said Lee. “We have physically distancing that needs to happen.”
Lee said the parents took the tape off and then sat down.
“My thought all along the meeting was we’ll open this meeting and cure this situation,” said Lee.
As part of Lee’s statement, he said “According to the Governor’s office, “The order establishes certain exemptions that will apply when an individual is maintaining physical distancing of at least six feet apart from another individual, when the individual is eating or drinking, and if the individual has a medical condition, mental health condition, or a disability that prevents the wearing of the face covering.”