Gov. Spencer Cox backs away from ‘extreme maskers’ comment

Earlier this week, Utah’s leader questioned efficacy of face coverings.

(Spenser Heaps | Deseret News, pool) Gov. Spencer Cox came under fire earlier this week for suggesting masks aren't effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. On Friday he backed away from those comments.

Gov. Spencer Cox is backpedaling from a bizarre statement in which he attempted to straddle both sides of the mask-wearing debate and in the process cast doubt on the efficacy of face coverings in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

During a Tuesday news conference, Cox was asked whether the state was giving mixed messages on mask-wearing. Cox tried to blame the political rancor surrounding the issue on both “anti-maskers” and what he referred to as “extreme maskers.”

“Masks are not as effective as most of the pro-mask crowd are arguing,” Cox told reporters. “They’re just not.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that even fully vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors. The CDC has also advised masks be worn indoors for all teachers, staff and students at schools nationwide.

“Let’s get over the fact that masks are not going to single-handedly solve this crisis,” Cox added. “At the same time, masks are not the evil others have portrayed them to be.”

The governor explained some people find mask-wearing to be an inconvenience. He also said he has some concerns that masks may interfere with learning, especially among young children. Experts say it’s inconclusive whether masks inhibit child development.

“The anti-maskers and the extreme maskers all just need to get over ourselves a little bit and try to have a little bit of common sense here,” Cox said. “That’s what’s missing from this discussion.”

Minutes before Cox’s comments, Dr. Marc Harrison, the president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare, implored Utahns to wear a mask in public.

On Friday via Twitter, Cox cited a new study that proved masks reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The study from Stanford University researchers tracked 340,000 people in 600 rural villages in Bangladesh. They found people who were encouraged to wear a mask were nearly 29% more likely to do so, which led to a 9.3% reduction in COVID-19 spread.

“This week I made some inarticulate statements around masks,” Cox tweeted. “My purpose wasn’t to imply that masks don’t work at all, but that they pale in comparison to vaccines.”

Cox has been under pressure to mandate face coverings in Utah’s schools as the number of infections continues to rise. On Friday, Utah reported 453 school-age children had been diagnosed with COVID-19.