Jeffco following state mask order after JCPH rescinds own order

Decision made to avoid confusion

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/20/20

Just two days after it issued a public health order requiring people in Jeffco to wear a face mask, JCPH has rescinded that order to let the county be governed solely by the face covering order …

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Jeffco following state mask order after JCPH rescinds own order

Decision made to avoid confusion

Posted

Just two days after it issued a public health order requiring people in Jeffco to wear a face mask, JCPH has rescinded that order to let the county be governed solely by the face covering order issued by Gov. Jared Polis on July 16.

A statement JCPH indicated the decision to rescind the county order resulted from the agency’s desire to avoid confusion because the two orders were “substantially similar, though not identical.”

One significant difference between the orders was that the state applies to those over 10 while the county order was for those five and over. The state order also applies only to those entering “public indoor space” while the county order applied to situations where six feet of social distancing could not be maintained, including outdoor situations.

According to the statement, “all individuals and businesses within Jefferson County should follow the face covering requirements set forth in the state’s EO D 2020 138.”

JCPH Executive Director Mark B. Johnson said on July 14 that he felt Jeffco needed a mask order because of recent increases in COVID-19 cases in Jeffco as well as elsewhere in the Denver metro area.

Johnson said that he had previously declined to issue a face covering because he was not convinced after a review of the evidence related to masks that there was “a preponderance of evidence that supported moving forward with a mandatory mask order.”

He also said he had repeatedly been told that people in Jeffco would voluntarily wear masks in great enough numbers to contain the spread of COVID-19 without a mandate.

“Unfortunately over the period of time since I decided we did not need a face mask order we are seeing a rise in cases again,” Johnson said.

Johnson also mentioned a recent study conducted by the National Governor's Association that found that in states with a mandatory mask order place new COVID-19 cases was 25% lower in the third week of June then the first week of June. However, in states where masks were encouraged but not required, cases went up 84% in the same period.

Issue remains controversial

At the June 14 county commissioners meeting, when Johnson initially announced his plan to issue the now repealed county mask requirement, many residents spoke both in favor of and against a mask requirement.

“I do agree that businesses have the right to do what they want and if they want to require customers to wear masks that is there right and they should go ahead and do that but government-required mask wearing is unconstitutional,” said one speaker from unincorporated Jeffco.

However, Pam Bales, the president of the West Metro Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has taken the position that a mask order is “key to keeping the county economy open.”

Bales said the chamber has been polling member businesses about what they are hearing from our customers and learned that more than half of people are not completely ready to visit stores and other businesses again.

“This information makes it imperative that we continue to help consumers feel safe (with masks) so they will go out and patronize our local businesses,” said Bales. “Plus, employers want to keep their employees and customers safe as well.”

Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul also expressed support for a mask requirement that would apply to Jeffco.

“We have to make sure we don't go backwards with the opening of our businesses so I feel like while it might be annoying for some it's a small sacrifice to make to keep things moving forward,” Paul said.

That sentiment was also shared by Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper.

“It seems to me that this should be a no-brainer for us,” said Dahlkemper. “We've all sacrificed over the past three months and we've finally gotten to the point where we are reopening the economy and why would we want to put our neighbors, businesses and other community members by not wearing face coverings? Why would we want to put the reopening at risk?”

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