COLORADO SPRINGS — During a work session on Monday morning, Colorado Springs City Council members, business owners, and others debated an ordinance that, if passed, would mandate mask wearing in public places.
At the end of the discussion, council removed the ordinance from Tuesday’s agenda, moving it to the July 27 work session and July 28 regular meeting.
However, in El Paso County, cases have begun to rise, as recently as this past weekend.
CDPHE measures spread based on case county per 100,000 people over the previous two weeks. Anything less than 50 cases constitutes a low spread, 50 to 99.9 is a medium spread, and over 100 cases in that per capita count are considered a high spread. Hitting the “high’ threshold requires local governments to inform the state on a mitigation plan should cases.
In it’s lowest point on June 14-15, El Paso County reported 25.63/100,000/14 days. Since then cases have steadily increased, the per capita count nearly quadrupling on July 14 to 106.83 cases/100,000/14 days.
“What I don’t want to happen is our variances to walk backwards,” Jack Damioli, president of the Broadmoor, told council.
Damioli said operating restaurants under limited capacity is already difficult and, that if their facilities are forced to close again, they would likely have to lay off around 1,400 people.
Damioli said the Broadmoor asks guests to wear masks, but noted Monday that only about a third of guests comply. He said that’s because mask-wearing is not required by the local government.
Other businesses have seen customers become aggressive when asked to wear a mask or face covering.
“They refused to do so and became belligerent when they were asked to either wear a mask or to leave the premises. Business owners shouldn’t be put in a place of enforcing regulations or requiring good behavior,” said Dirk Draper, the president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation.
The enforcement is an issue yet to be worked out. Several council members were not in favor of the fines and potential jail time levied in the ordinance and warned against implementing an ordinance that would not be enforced.
That was one of three points councilman Wayne Williams took issue with, along with how the Governor’s office can rescind variances and the point the request for masks come from businesses, not public health experts.
“If there is a time where the Health Department comes forward with a ‘This is an imminent public health crisis’ and council is satisfied with their responses to questions then I think we would certainly reexamine it at that point. But we are not at that stage at this time,” Williams said.
Draper says the majority of 1,400 businesses in the Chamber & EDC support a city-wide mask mandate. He says, the risk of those establishments closing is greater without masks as well as increasing spread and sees an irony against the Chamber’s argument that masks will help them stay open.
“I’d be interested to know how many people who were protesting the closures in April are outside today or have written to the city council and voiced their concerns. I don’t know all their motivations but I do know they perceive this as the curtailment of their liberty. I perceive this as protection for our business community,” he said.