This letter in response to an article in the Thursday July 23 issue, titled, “Commissioners discuss enforcement of governor’s mask wearing mandate.”
The article read that Commissioner Lopez stated that enforcement of the governor’s order to wear masks in public places is up to businesses, and law enforcement will only act if a business contacts them complaining of trespass by a person who refuses to wear a mask.
This certainly provides a convenient solution for law enforcement, but I believe that their policy goes against the letter and intent of the governor’s order. It also shows a lack of understanding of why we take precautions during a pandemic, and it may provide a practical loophole for those businesses that disagree with the mandate and remain silent when people use their business place without masking up. As Governor Polis said in his press conference announcing the new order, pleading with everyone to wear masks and to follow social distance guidelines has not worked. This order makes it against the law to refuse to wear a mask in public places. Is it not the job of law enforcement to enforce the law?
I understand the reluctance of the sheriff to take on this responsibility. It will mean that he must make some effort to learn more about the order and how it is being enforced in other areas. And he will have to formulate a plan on how he will allocate resources for enforcement of the order.
I offer an analogy: During this drought, it is unlawful for private citizens to use fireworks. This law infringed on some people’s personal liberty, but with very good reason. Fireworks endanger the rest of the community when the likelihood of fire is high. In the same way, failure to wear a mask in a public place endangers the rest of the community. I would hope that around July 4th, the sheriff would be putting some effort into prohibiting people’s use of fireworks.
During the pandemic, the sheriff should also put effort into making sure that people wear masks in public places. He shouldn’t have to rely on the trespass laws to enforce this order. The order plainly states that it carries the weight of law, and mentions penalties for those who ignore it.