Provo Passes Resolution On Masks, Considers Mandate
PROVO, Utah – Days before tens of thousands of college students are expected to return to the city, the Provo City Council met in an emergency meeting and passed a resolution on masks to prepare for the possibility of a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“The bottom line is we’re going to be a very different population in the next week,” said Provo City Council Chair George Handley.
Handley and other councilmembers admitted the city should have — but failed — to act sooner to prepare for the return of Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University students.
During the virtual meeting, Handley said what they decide to do now “may impact the level of infection in significant ways.”
The council was unanimous in supporting a resolution on masks, calling on everyone in the city “to accept personal responsibility to each do our part to follow public health guidelines to the best of their abilities.”
But when it came to whether to adopt an ordinance that would mandate masks, the council ultimately decided to put off a vote until next week.
“I like the signal that no mandate sends to our citizens,” said Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, who was not a part of the vote but was invited to share her opinion on the matter. “It says I trust them. And we really do.”
Chief Rich Ferguson with the Provo Police Department also had concerns about what a mask ordinance would mean for enforcement.
“The use of armed officers to enforce a new health code will create problems and erode trust,” Ferguson said adding he didn’t have the resources to respond to calls on masks.
Reaction from residents, students and people who work in Provo waw mixed. Many expressed support during the public comment period while some questioned the effectiveness of masks. Others pushed back on being told what to do.
“No one likes to wear a mask. It’s not comfortable,” said BYU student Audrey Memmott. “It’s not something we’re used to but if it’s something that needs to be in place at the moment, I think it’s a good precaution to take.”
A precaution that Provo officials were feeling more pressure to take action on at the start of an unusual school year.
“Something I think we can all agree on is we want students to stay in Provo,” Handley said.
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