Idaho woman says she dresses ‘like a Muslim’ to avoid masks

An Idaho woman said she dresses “like a Muslim” to dodge coronavirus mask-wearing policies.

A woman who identified herself as Katie Dugger told the Lewiston City Council that she wears “a burka” in public so she doesn’t have to wear a mask, according to a video recording of the Jan. 25 meeting. The council was reviewing a public health order on “physical distancing and face coverings” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m wearing this because the only way I could go to school today is I had to act like I had on a freaking burka,” Dugger said during the meeting. “I have to cover my face like I’m a Muslim.”

At the meeting, Dugger wore a scarf around her head, but it did not cover her mouth or nose. She said she is a student at Lewis-Clark State College and took time off from school in the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.

She said she cannot wear a mask because of something traumatic from her childhood, so she wears a scarf around her head like a hijab — which is not a burka.

“The way for me to go to school and get my education, I have to dress like a freaking Muslim,” Dugger said during the meeting.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said its policy is that everyone should follow health and safety guidelines in terms of wearing masks, Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper told McClatchy News.

“We encourage mask wearing,” Hooper said. “The Muslim community, early on, formed a COVID-19 national task force that involved Muslim medical professionals and community leaders that encouraged the wearing of masks, encouraged safety procedures at mosques.”

Hooper said some people during the coronavirus pandemic have tried to compare wearing a mask to help slow the spread of the coronavirus and wearing Muslim attire. However, he thinks that any attire people chose to wear should conform to safety regulations and that there is “no conflict” between wearing Islamic attire and health requirements.

“We have seen that on occasion during the pandemic is that people who object to wearing face masks somehow try to draw in the American Muslim community to fight their battle in terms of utilization of stereotypes and bias,” Hooper said.

In July, a post on Facebook went viral that included the number of COVID-19 cases reported in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and India, USA Today reported. The post included a photo of a woman in a full-face covering that some Muslims wear.

“Worn face coverings their entire life… and still reported to have COVID-19,” the post said, according to USA Today. “Think America Think!”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing masks over the nose and mouth that are fitted securely under the chin. Wearing a scarf over your head or face does not fit requirements in place by the CDC to be effective during the pandemic.

“Fit the mask snugly against the sides of your face, slipping the loops over your ears or tying the strings behind your head,” the CDC says. “If you have to continually adjust your mask, it doesn’t fit properly, and you might need to find a different mask type or brand.”

During the Lewiston City Council meeting, Dugger repeatedly expressed her views against requiring people to wear face masks, which she termed “nonsense” before threatening a class-action lawsuit.

“My education is being held up because of this crap,” she said. “This is terrible. I want to go to school to make this a better place. I want to get my degree.”

The Lewiston City Council thanked community members for their comments at a meeting that lasted two hours, and then voted to extend the mask requirement for 90 days.

Councilman John Bradbury said, “I heard over, over and over … about how there’s no science to support masks. That came from a range of people who sincerely believe some data to being given the finger by one of the other speakers. None of that approaches, in my judgment, the opinion of the experts.”

Nez Perce County, which includes Lewiston, has around 3,000 total confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Idaho Statesman. Since the pandemic reached Idaho, the state has reported 131,011 confirmed cases overall, plus 29,684 probable cases.

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