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South Dakota city drops mask mandate after 9-year-old girl said she was ‘bullied’ at school

Girl’s mother told city council, ‘With this mandate, you are making people feel entitled to think they are better than other people’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Friday 12 March 2021 15:47 GMT
A discarded FFP2 protective face mask lies on a street.
A discarded FFP2 protective face mask lies on a street. (AFP via Getty Images)

The city of Sioux Falls in South Dakota will allow its mask mandate to expire after a 9-year-old girl read a letter before the city council saying she was "bullied" in school and called "stupid" for not wearing a face covering.

Mayor Paul TenHaken broke the four to four tie vote on the city council and voted not to extend the mandate despite that hundreds of new cases have been reported every day in the state over the last week, according to data from The New York Times.

The girl also told the council that she and her family were asked to leave retailer Claire's because they were not wearing masks. After hearing her speak, Mr TenHaken cast his vote not to extend the mandate which will now expire Saturday 13 March.

According to The Daily Beast, the girl said: "I am 9 years old and in third grade. I am here to talk about how I get bullied on the bus and at school because I don't wear a mask.

"First they called me an a-hole and said my parents don't care about me. Then they called me names like dumb and stupid. Also, my school librarian doesn't let me sit around the room while others that do have a mask get to.

"Also, I have lost some friends over this pandemic and I don't like this at all."

Read more: Oklahoma latest state to drop all Covid-19 restrictions

She added that she, her mother and brother were "kicked out of my favourite store, Claire's because we didn't wear masks".

The girl's mother Alexis Kuiken expressed pride for her daughter's bravery at the meeting and argued before the council that the mask mandate should end.

Ms Kuiken said: "With this mandate, you are making people feel entitled to think they are better than other people and look down on us and harass us just for making a different decision by simply looking out for our family's mental and physical health".

530,000 Americans have died because of Covid-19 so far and 29.3 million have been infected with the disease. A University of Washington study published in October estimated that 130,000 lives could have been saved if everyone wore masks, NPR reported.

"If you’re a person who wants to avoid COVID-19, cares about the health of others, and endorses rational, evidence-based decision-making, choosing to wear a mask should be an easy call," Dr Robert Schmerling at Harvard Medical School wrote in November.

Ms Kuiken added: "This is all about fear. I choose faith over fear. There's a big difference between walking into the middle of a highway and expecting not to get killed and going out without a mask for a virus with a 99 per cent survival rate."

After the council voted four to four, Mr TenHaken said: "So that puts it onto me. I obviously was hoping not to get in this position."

He apologized to a member of the council to whom he had promised to vote for an extension of the mandate and to health officials, whom he said: "have been our allies in this". He remarked that he's not an expert on the subject before voting to end the mandate.

He said: "I am going to be voting against this tonight, and this item will end up failing five to four. I would ask that you don't applaud because there's nothing happy about this. This is not good.

"Based on what I feel is best for our community right now, I go against my word. And I'm doing that right now. You're watching it play out and it's very tough."

Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Montana, Oklahoma and North Dakota have already ended their mask mandates on a statewide basis.

President Joe Biden slammed the moves as "neanderthal thinking".

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still in favour of mask-wearing.

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