Collin Raye

Collin Raye

SALT LAKE CITY — A Republican Utah mayor will allow a country music concert protest event later this month, defying newly loosened health rules aimed at slowing the coronavirus pandemic.

Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt acknowledged Thursday the May 30 event would violate current state directives but told the Salt Lake Tribune “I believe I need to support people’s First Amendment rights.”

She is also running for Congress, and her opponents questioned whether her approval of the show by well-known singer Nashville-based Collin Raye was politically motivated and could prove risky for public health.

The event is sponsored by Utah Business Revival, which has also backed other protests calling on the state to lift restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the virus. The coronavirus causes flu-like symptoms which most people recover from but can be deadly. More than 75 people have died in Utah so far.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert will relax many of those restrictions and allow businesses to reopen across much of the state Saturday outside of a some hot spots. The concert will likely violate ongoing restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people, but Herbert’s office said local health officials would be responsible for any enforcement.

Witt said the group is asking attendees to wear masks and practice social distancing, so she believes it will be safe. Opponents in the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop questioned her motivation in allowing the show to go on.

“I think that’s sad. This COVID-19 situation is not a political situation that we play games with. People’s lives, people’s families could be impacted,” said Republican Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson.

The concert will also have booths for local businesses that were required to close during the pandemic.

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