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'Defending Utah' group defies mask mandate

Posted at 6:54 PM, Jul 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-11 20:54:57-04

SALT LAKE CITY – A group is determined to undermine a county health mandate to wear face coverings while at public gatherings, restaurants and retail spaces.

Despite studies and research by health experts proving the use of face coverings greatly reduces the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, “Defending Utah” is encouraging its members to not wear face coverings in public.

In open defiance of public health orders, the group is organizing weekly flash mobs at area grocery stores. Members receive a text message in the morning letting them know where the flash mob will occur. They head inside the store as a group, without wearing face coverings or practicing social distancing.

A spokesperson for the group declined a request from FOX13 to speak on camera. Instead, they responded to written questions.

“The statewide mask campaign is an attempt by the state to break the population into giving up control of their bodies before attempting further encroachments on our freedoms,” the spokesperson wrote. “It is long past time to draw the line in these small steps in defense of our Constitution.”

Health officials say the mandate isn’t a matter of taking rights away. Instead, it’s a matter of protecting the community from a health crisis.

“By and large, we are seeing compliance be really good in Salt Lake County with our mask requirement,” said Nicholas Rupp, a spokesperson for the Salt Lake County Health Department. “We know for certain and the scientific community is clear, that wearing a face covering consistently can reduce the spread of Covid.”

According to the Facebook page of Defending Utah, the texting service the group was utilizing to contact its members canceled their contract. The post added, “Will keep you posted on how we will move forward.”