SALT LAKE CITY — A group of demonstrators gathered outside the Utah State Capitol Saturday afternoon to make their voices heard in support of public health orders and mask mandates.
Those who spoke included doctors, activists and parents — but it was students and teachers who took center stage.
In the first week of the state legislative session, lawmakers swiftly passed legislation to dismantle county health orders that required face coverings, and the group at the Capitol on Saturday expressed their displeasure with the legislature.
"We're just really grateful for the voices that have spoken up today, for the people who have come and contributed," said Chris Phillips, a co-founder of Utah Concerned Coalition. "There are people here who are interested in protecting our kids and protecting our communities and making sure that we can keep our community open and moving forward."
The message was largely focused on students and teachers.
Deborah Gatrell, a teacher at Hunter High School, said she spoke on behalf of her students and students across the state
"It's incredibly, incredibly wrong to say that it doesn't affect kids, because we've got five kids in the state of Utah who have died from COVID," Gatrell said.
There were even some students who spoke out against the legislature.
"Students like me have to choose between coming to school and perhaps putting our families at risk, or missing out on our education," one said.
"Children have lost parents. They've lost aunts and uncles. They've lost grandparents," Gatrell added. "And I know that because they're missing school for these funerals."
Those who spoke aimed to call out the legislature for overturning Salt Lake and Summit counties' mask mandates, as well as suspending test to stay protocols in schools.
They wanted those who represent them to pay attention and leave local guidelines alone.
"It's time to stand up and let legislators know where we're at," one speaker said.
While this fight on Capitol Hill may be over for now, many in this group expressed hope that as the omicron variant continues to spread in our state, that some lawmakers will change their minds to support public health orders and further protections against COVID-19.