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Event organizer Laure Meeks Jorgensen speaks to the crowd while holding a sign reading “Unmask Our Children! Let Them Be Kids!” during an anti-mask protest Thursday outside the Capitol in downtown Cheyenne. The group wants statewide mask mandates for schoolchildren to be eliminated.

CHEYENNE — Roughly 30 Wyomingites gathered on the grounds of the state Capitol at noon Thursday to protest against the requirements for children to wear masks in school.

The protestors came from across the state to demonstrate against school districts’ reopening plans, all of which require masks be worn when social distancing cannot be enforced. Laura Jorgensen, a main organizer of the protest, drove several hours from Fort Bridger to demonstrate.

“We just would like the freedom of choice for our own kids back, and we want our local control back,” Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen, along with a few others, organized the protest after forming an anti-mask Facebook group that has quickly grown to more than 4,000 members. She and several others at the rally questioned the usefulness of masks, despite many medical studies showing that wearing one can reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We understand that they’re trying to keep people safe, but the data doesn’t support it in kids, who aren’t typically spreading this,” said Jorgensen, who has a child in high school. “Mandating kids to keep a very small portion of our population safe, it’s not showing effectiveness.”

Others insisted that masks are not just useless, but detrimental to the health of school children. Roxanne Freeman, a Cheyenne resident on hand for the protest, said she was afraid to send her child to kindergarten due to the precautions.

“My child comes back home saying, ‘Mommy, I don’t feel good,’ because she’s had to wear a mask all day,” Freeman said. “She’s respiratory-compromised, and she’s had to wear a mask all day because the principal won’t listen to me.”

Some protestors carried signs critical of State Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, who has spearheaded the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yvonne Harris, a 70-year-old retired kindergarten teacher from Mountain View, said she’s been in communication with Harrist, but she wasn’t satisfied by her responses.

“Dr. Harrist has done research and believes in her research,” Harris said. “We have done research and believe in our research.”

Anti-mask sentiment has also been strong in sectors of the Wyoming Republican Party. During the Wyoming GOP’s State Central Committee meeting in Worland last weekend, party officials advanced a resolution supporting an individual’s freedom to make their own health-related decisions.

“The Wyoming Republican Party supports the right of parents to decide if their children will comply with requirements, such as mandatory masks, COVID-19 testing and COVID-19 vaccines, from the Wyoming Department of Health or local school board which have to do with COVID-19 measures in taxpayer-funded schools,” states the resolution.

However, not everyone in Wyoming shares the protestors’ frustrations. Roughly 62% of respondents to a study conducted last month by the University of Wyoming’s Survey and Analysis Center said they would strongly or somewhat support a mask requirement in indoor public spaces. The protest also came a day after the Wyoming Department of Health reported its largest increase in active COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Yet the protestors, who eventually broke into chants of “No more masks!” and “My body! My choice!” on the Capitol grounds, preferred a move in the opposite direction, pushing for the elimination of all mask mandates and other public health orders.

Terra Ellison, who came from Douglas to join the protest, said she doesn’t want a government that can control families and school districts.

“It’s your choice — if you want to put a mask on, that’s fine, but this is scary,” Ellison said. “Do you really want these kids not learning to play and be social? How are you going to do that if you’re covering them all up?”

(3) comments

HarleyRider

This "pandemic" has the same mortality rate as the common strains of influenza. Did we "mask up" to combat that dreaded diseas? No. Are masks necessar now? No.

The best thing that parents can do is to remove their children from the clutches of the government "school" system. The best thing teachers can do (if they care about kids) is to refuse to enforce any mask mandate; in fact they should refuse to allow masks in their classrooms... but they won't; why? Because they are stupid sheep who do what they are told. Disgusting.

I do not believe any polling data provided by agenda-driven UW groups. Wyomingites are freedom loving people; they do not want to be told what to do by a bunch of incapable state employees. And as for state employees who are trying to mandate child abusing masks... we know who you are and we are not going to forget.

freeconsultant

I know that any reasoned argument is fruitless at this point, but I do think it's worth pointing out that while children may have lower infection rates they DO come home and can pass the virus on to other people; the death rate is 4-5 times that of influenza; and the protesters have the chant wrong: It's not "my body, my choice," it's "your body, my choice." The mask you wear protests your immediate neighbor, not you. Try watching a little less Fox news and speaking to the majority of people who have an anthology of good reasons to wear masks.

TheReplacement

Mr. "Reasoned" argument, please provide your non-Fox news evidence of a documented childhood transmission of COVID. BTW, you do know don't you that the CDC updated their death stats on 8/26 to a mere 6% of total deaths (due to COVID alone) rendering your death rate assertion of 4-5 times that of influenza as rubbish.

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