The Provo City Council’s concern for the thousands of students coming back to campus this fall is justified. However, taking action by mandating mask wearing in public areas is the wrong solution, and could, if enforced, do more harm than good.
Many businesses require or strongly encourage mask wearing already in Provo. While a few more grocery store shoppers will be wearing masks, the marginal gain of this mandate will likely be small. At the same time, threatening the noncompliant with a $55 fine for individuals and up to $500 for gatherings incentivizes the wrong behaviors.
I am a young single adult in Provo. There are a lot of us, and what is happening among my demographic? We’re getting together. As much as our leaders and the media want to deny, decry or despise the fact that the younger generation is out socializing, it’s happening in droves. Go to any Sonic after 10 p.m. to see how much socializing is happening.
Are we hoping that this mandate will cause the kids at Sonic to wear a mask while they rough house and share TikToks with each other? No. They will go indoors, where they are away from the threat of being issued a citation.
Rather than the constant cry to #MaskUpProvo, our response needs to more creatively encourage those that are socializing to do so safely, such as campaigns to #GetOutside, #PicnicTillTheVaccine, or have #NightGamesOverGameNights. Maskless socializing will happen no matter what. Doing so in public just became expensive, so where else is there to go? Not a backyard, because students don’t have backyards. They will be going inside to their dorms and apartments.