Utah governor criticizes parents opposing masks for students

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(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said parents who do not want to follow his health mandate by requiring their children to wear masks when returning to school are “a little bit irrational.”

The Republican said students without face coverings should not return to classrooms and should instead take part in online school or homeschooling during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Herbert questioned what other safety practices parents opposing masks might protest.

“I think these same people might get on an airplane and say they’re not going to fasten their seat belts,” Herbert said Thursday. “And they may be invited to get off the plane if that’s the case.”

The comments follow confirmation by Herbert’s office Wednesday that K-12 students and staff who refuse to wear masks without a legitimate medical exemption can be charged with a misdemeanor under his mandate.

Herbert reaffirmed Thursday that leaders of individual schools and charters would decide whether to enforce the mandate by seeking potential criminal penalties.

He urged families to follow the “common sense” order, which he said is meant to protect teachers who are more at risk for serious complications from the virus than students because of age or health conditions.

“We certainly can minimize the risk and mitigate the chances of you catching the virus at school, which we’re trying to do,” he said. “One of the best ways, the most effective, inexpensive ways to do that is have everybody wear a face covering.”

Some lawmakers and parents have pushed back against the mask order, characterizing it as an unconstitutional infringement on their freedoms.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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