Concerned Coalition gathers Utahns in rally to remove politics from public health

A young girl holds a sign on the steps of the Capitol. Young children and their education are at the core of much of the debate about mask mandates in schools. (Sadey Nevin)

Dozens of Utahns rallied on the State Capitol steps on Jan. 29 with the goal to raise awareness and remove politics from public health.

The event was run by the Concerned Coalition, a nonprofit organization which works to promote “compassionate and evidence-based decisions” involving students and their schools.

This rally was a response to the Utah House of Representatives’ Jan. 21 decision to overturn mask mandates in Salt Lake and Summit counties.

“Regardless of the Utah Legislative decision to overturn mask mandates, we urge each of you to continue to wear masks — preferably N95, KN95 or KN94 — at work, schools and all public places,” Concerned Coalition President Chris Phillips said on the group’s website. He urges people to mask, test and get vaccinated for the safety of the community.

Twenty-four speakers stood in front of the crowd and each delivered a short speech. Phillips started off the afternoon line-up of speeches.

Deputy director of Utah Department of Health and medical director of Health Clinics of Utah Marc Babitz speaks at the rally. This event was intended to help remove politics from public health initiatives. (Sadey Nevin)

“Some people think freedom means you get to do whatever you want,” Babitz said. “I actually believe in the Constitution, which says that I have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and your freedom does not have the right to interfere with those things for me.”

Utah Equal Rights Amendment Coalition co-chair Kelly Whited Jones, 1Utah Project founder Darlene McDonald and American Federation of Teachers Utah President Brad Asay also delivered speeches. Murray councilwoman Rosalba Dominguez was the only politician to speak. Other speakers included COVID-19 survivors, pharmacists, teachers, professors and students as young as 11.

“The job of our state government is to protect its citizens,” said Andrew Waibel, a cancer survivor who contracted COVID-19. Waibel is also the father of a toddler with Type 1 diabetes who was hospitalized with COVID-19 after attending daycare. “It is to help us live safely.”

“We also want our freedom,” health advocate Ellen Brady said. “We want our leaders and those around us to show us the decency, community and respect that Utah claims to embrace as its core values. We want our leaders to be pro-life in every sense of the phrase.”

Utahns gather at the Capitol to rally for public health freedom. Masks and vaccines have been a hot topic of debate within the Utah Legislature. (Sadey Nevin)
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