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To the editor:

Last year I was denied regular service at two Cache Valley locations because I cannot wear a mask. It is frustrating that business owners and especially elected leaders can adhere to a threat, but seem inept at reading an actual legal document. The previous governor of the state of Utah always included exemptions on his executive orders concerning mask mandates. Yet, a bouncer sits or stands near many Cache Valley business doors disguised as a greeter. "Hi, welcome, and where's your mask?" Because nothing is more welcoming than a reminder that you are odd. That you don't fit in. That you're not compliant.

I've had everything from mild interactions to full blown arguments with managers in front of customers over this issue. It's not all bad. TJ Maxx welcomes those who are unable to wear a mask in a message on their intercom. Reed's Pharmacy has a polite sign in their doorway allowing for exemptions. They both have my business. I've had success saying "No, thank you" at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. Nobody at my dentist's office gave me strange looks (except other clients). And I'm still welcome at my local congregation. So far. But the receptionist at the orthodontist office I take my kids to made me wonder if I had something in my teeth. Sabores just wouldn't suffer my presence in their restaurant. And Hyrum city library also asked me to leave, telling me I could get my books outside, reminding me of racial segregation under the Jim Crow laws. To make matters worse, Hyrum City elected leaders ignored me at best and one council member bullied me into silence. Little did they know that I could read legalese, write a letter to a newspaper editor, and that I'm not afraid of bullies.

I am a human being. And a consumer. I choose where I shop, which service providers I hire, and whether or not I go to places in my city. And my personal health is nobody's business, not the "greeters" at stores, not the librarians at the library, and certainly not any elected leader or any other person. So I go only where I know I'm welcome, with a promise to myself that I can leave anytime. I would like to say a word of encouragement to those struggling with mask mandates. You are not alone. And someone is willing to speak up for you. I hope those around us begin to understand. Because going out without a mask does not make us worthless, or invisible.

Melissa Lemon

Hyrum

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