Summit County Council Members on Wednesday decided they don’t want to extend a limited mask order, after the state’s mask mandate expires on April 10.
Despite that, a line-up of speakers in public input were still upset with county officials. They bashed mask mandates, and the promotion of vaccines and said Covid restrictions have taken a toll on citizens over the past year.
Council Members generally agreed with Health Director Rich Bullough that they won’t enact a new mask Order. But they want to support business owners who still require masking, along with their employees who might be apprehensive about working around maskless customers.
Of the 13 speakers in Public Comment, virtually all criticized the COVID-19 restrictions of the past year.
Elizabeth Smith said she’s been a registered nurse for 11 years, and has two children.
“Over the course of the last year, I have watched my happy, energetic, carefree children develop signs of depression, fear and anxiety, including threats to take their own life," Smith said. "They describe masks as embarrassing and hot and hard to breathe in. They have a hard time understanding what people are trying to say to them under a mask. They cannot make out emotions or expressions from underneath a mask. My children are literally afraid to go to school out of fear of masks on their face, and because everyone around them is wearing one. I have been unable to provide them the help they need due to the overwhelming needs for mental-health assistance in our schools.”
Council Member Doug Clyde responded that Smith’s issues are the prerogative of the school district, or state education authorities.
Another speaker, Renee Miller, made objections that brought objections, in turn, from Clyde.
“You are causing harm to us as a society, as humans," Miller said. "These are our rights. You’re not even following the Constitution. Richard Bullough was recommending vaccinations. These vaccinations aren’t even approved by the FDA. They’re experimental. And he’s saying it’s our duty, our duty, our duty. These types of references, and false information."
The FDA has allowed the use of COVID-19 vaccines under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), which is a mechanism allowed under law during public health emergencies. An EUA is different than an FDA approval of a vaccine.
Council Member Clyde responded to Miller:
"Okay, look, this is character assassination," Clyde said. "We’re not going to put up with this anymore. If you want to give us technical comments, please do. But we will not put up with character assassination of our employees over the dais.”
The speakers thanked the Council for not implementing a new Order. But Mark McClure said the county is still putting out propaganda for masks and vaccines. His wife Holly said they didn’t allow exemptions from masks due to medical or religious reasons.
Robyn Openshaw said she is a psychologist and a small business owner.
“I find it disingenuous to say, 'We’re all in this together' when you guys have not taken a hit at all, whereas a lot of us are losing our shirts in business," Openshaw said. "I think it’s disturbing when government employees tell us as business owners that the economy is doing great. The economy is not doing great. And what we put into place in the last year will be absolutely catastrophic in the coming years. We haven’t even begin to see all of the effects. But just go look at the Outlet Mall. Our economy is being artificially propped up right now by people fleeing from the West Coast because it seems relative to them.”
Her wrap-up brought a short response from Council Chairman Glenn Wright.
“Thank you for your comments, Robyn. I will point out that a half-a-million Americans have died from this particular disease. Next speaker, please.”
However, two speakers supported the Covid mandates. One was Health Board Chairman Chris Cherniak.
And Leila Rosenfield, a team leader at the Park City Mountain Resort, supported the restrictions 100 percent.
“And I am quite livid, actually, at the State Legislature for tying the County’s hands," Rosenfield said. "This mandate was powerful, it was backed by science and I know that for me and my team at Park City Mountain, having the backing of both a multi-national corporation, and the state and local government when we ask people to put up our masks, so that we can be all of us safe was, it was a life-saver. It was a godsend. It was remarkable. So I want to ask if there’s anything else that we can do. Can we incentivize businesses to continue asking for masks?”
Local employee Leilah Rosenfield.