DENVER – The Douglas County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday saying the county will not enforce the state’s indoor mask requirements even though the state still has the authority to do so, nor will businesses have to require customers to show proof they have been vaccinated.
The resolution passed in a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Lora Thomas voting against it and Commissioners Abe Laydon and George Teal voting for its passage.
“Douglas County residents are free to choose how to protect their lives and livelihoods regarding mask wearing, mask requirements, and vaccination passports, and such requirements shall not be mandatory in any Board controlled indoor space in Douglas County; nor shall any citizen or businesses be subject to fines or penalties by local government for failure to wear or require a mask or present a vaccination passport in any indoor space in Douglas County,” the resolution says.
But the resolution itself also notes that “the Board does not wish to mislead any person or business with regard to how the state may wish to enforce or not enforce its Mask Order and that repercussions from the state could ensue.”
Gov. Jared Polis amended the statewide mask order at the beginning of the month, which now allows people to go mask-free indoors if 80% of people can prove they are vaccinated or if there are fewer than 10 people gathered indoors together.
The Douglas County resolution said that change “has both concerned and confused Douglas County residents and business owners.” Just more than 60% of county residents have received at least one vaccine dose.
“It’s time for us to really acknowledge the rights of our citizens and defend our businesses against further confusion,” Laydon argued during discussion over the resolution Tuesday. “Enough is enough. The pandemic is over,” Laydon would later add, echoing a statement he made in the second week of April when the commissioners voted to opt out of public health orders from the Tri-County Health Department and open up to 100% capacity.
Thomas voted against the measure, saying she had heard from owners of hair and nail salons regulated by the state who said they were worried they could face license penalties or shut down by the Department of Regulatory Agencies if customers are not adhering to the mask requirement at their salons.
Brandi Fehringer, who owns Rory’s Diner in Parker, says she has wondered how long her staff and customers will have to wear masks. She says she doesn’t ask customers directly if they’ve been vaccinated but says it comes up sometimes in conversation, and that many customers have been vaccinated.
“I want everyone to feel comfortable in what they’re doing,” she said. “If you want to wear it, wear it. If you don’t, don’t. But I’m ready for things to move forward.”
Dr. John M. Douglas, the executive director of the Tri-County Health Department, said he only found out about the resolution on Monday night. He said that it would likely only cause further confusion among business owners and residents.
“I think my concern is that this symbolic action will potentially just add to the confusion because it’s not going to change the state law and it may make the average person even more confused than they already are,” Douglas said. “Masking is required in all indoor spaces with a few exceptions and the exceptions have created all the confusion. This is what we would tell people, this is still the state law. This is what’s expected.”
Polis said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon that Coloradans should be following the mask guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control no matter the state or local rules and spoke out against resolutions like Douglas County’s.
“I think taking symbolic actions that discourage mask wearing are short-sighted and unscientific,” he said.