Parker Town Council has signaled it is leaning toward voting to opt out of the mask order issued recently by the Tri-County Health Department.
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Mayor Mike Waid, the six Parker Town Council members and town staff discussed whether to opt out of the mandate at the council's July 13 study session, which was held virtually and was open to the public.
No official vote was made. The council likely will not make a final decision until the July 20 town council meeting. That meeting will be held virtually at 7 p.m. Instructions to follow the meeting can be found at ParkerOnline.org.
At the July 13 study session, five council members were in favor of opting out so far. Debbie Lewis was the only council member who did not want to opt out of the mandate just yet.
Waid said he received about 250 comments from residents through either email, phone call or other means of communications. Of those comments, two-thirds were in favor of the council opting out of the mandate, Waid said.
All council members and Waid agreed masks are beneficial to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, though some said they believed in the science behind wearing a mask more than others.
Councilmember Cheryl Poage, who said she falls under the category of people who are most vulnerable to be severely affected by the disease, added she does not always wear a mask in public and only does when others around her do as well.
Poage said she does believe masks help but questioned exactly how helpful they are.
Councilmember John Diak pointed to the fact 77% of Douglas County residents voluntarily complied with wearing a mask between June 28-July 5, a figure reported by the Tri-County Health Department. The chart reports 75% of Arapahoe residents wore masks without a mandate and 60% of Adams County residents did.
“It seems to me we do not need a policy in place. We are doing OK, but I’m happy to talk about if our small businesses want something or need something,” Diak said. “I think we’re doing OK right now.”
Councilmember Renee Williams questioned whether the Tri-County Health Department -- which provides public health services in Douglas, Arapahoe and Adams counties -- had the legal authority to issue such a mandate and believed citizens should be free to make their own choice.
Councilmember Jeff Toborg said the county successfully “flattened the curve” of COVID-19 cases, and questioned why Parker needed a mandate. Toborg also had issue with the fact businesses stood to lose their licenses if they were to violate the mask mandate.
Councilmember Josh Rivero said he didn’t believe it was right to have businesses “policing” who is and is not wearing a mask.
The actual language of the order can be found here.
The fifth paragraph on page five of the Tri-County Health order states “any business open to the public that permits an individual to enter…without a required face covering may be subject to the suspension or revocation of its license…”
Rivero added that the language in the order was inconsistent. Rivero recited Section III of the order titled “Exceptions to Face Covering Requirement” and provided an example: “All I have to do is say I have asthma,” without providing proof, and be exempt from wearing a mask, he said.
Lewis expressed concern over the spiking case rates in places like Florida. The Florida Department of Health reported 12,000 new cases July 13. Lewis acknowledged Colorado and Douglas County had more encouraging statistics of voluntary mask-wearers and hospitalization rates.
Lewis wanted to be sure “if things went to hell in a handbasket, we still have the ability to do something.” Staff reassured Lewis the town will still be able to issue emergency orders if needed and there is still the option to opt back into the Tri-County mask mandate if so desired.
Tri-County board members approved the public health order requiring facial coverings in public where social distancing cannot be maintained on July 8. Municipalities have until July 23 to decide whether to opt out of the mandate, which is an option provided by the order. The order takes effect July 24.
The original mandate, for those who do not opt out, expires Oct. 22.
Douglas County officials also have been discussing opting out of the mask rule, but that action, if taken, would apply only to the county's unincorporated areas.
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