A group of Aurora city council members – both in power and incoming – wrote a letter to the city manager on Tuesday asking that Aurora use any city resources to meet a newly issued mask mandate from the tri-county health department. Does not apply to what applies on Wednesday. ,
The letter’s central message highlights the volatile situation Colorado’s third largest city finds itself in with public health matters and an ongoing pandemic as the tri-county falls apart.
Aurora spans Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties and was fully served by Tri-County until September, when Douglas County raised its own over disagreement with Tri-County’s decision to continue requiring masks in schools. Had pulled out of the agency to create the health department of ,
“The decision of the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners to leave the Tri-County Health Department has put the city of Aurora in a position where the new mandate will not apply equally to all of our city residents,” the letter said. ” “To ensure a uniform policy of enforcement by the city, we encourage Aurora Code Enforcement and Tax and Licensing to only enforce rules set by the state as it pertains to the mask mandate.”
There is no statewide mask mandate in Colorado.
The letter to City Manager Jim Twombly was signed by Mayor Mike Kaufman, Councilman Curtis Gardner and Councilwoman Francois Bergen, as well as three recently elected candidates, who will take office next month.
“We must have a consistent enforcement approach in the city,” Gardner said in an interview on Tuesday.
new mask mandate #aurora Our city has created an uneven playing field for residents and businesses. if @TCHDHealth They have that right if they want to implement their mandate. But Aurora should only enforce state orders so that they are applied equally across the city. #COVID-19 pic.twitter.com/z9ICbAcAc3
— Curtis Gardner (@CurtisForAurora) November 23, 2021
Acknowledging that a fraction of Aurora’s population of about 400,000 lives in Douglas County—fewer than 3,000 residents and virtually no businesses that would be subject to the tri-county order—Gardner said he worries that Arapaho and The separation of facade policies between Douglas counties would hurt businesses. In the southern part of the city.
There is no mask mandate, except for schools in Douglas County.
“It’s not anti-mask,” said Gardner, who said he has been vaccinated and extended and voluntarily wears masks. “It’s making sure we have an even playing field and we’re not incentivizing our residents to go elsewhere for their purchases.”
Councilwoman Alison Combs agrees with Gardner on the need for a consistent citywide mask policy for Aurora—she just thinks the policy should require universal use of masks in public indoor spaces, rather than making it optional.
“We must not bow down to the governor’s decision not to implement a masked mandate,” she said. “It is disappointing that my colleagues and future colleagues did not recognize the risks (from the coronavirus) and the protective functions of masks.”
Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations rose to 1,576 on Tuesday afternoon, with 95% of intensive care unit beds being used. Half of the hospitals reporting to the state – 46% – said they expected to be less staffed next week.
COVID-19 deaths continued to rise in Colorado last week, reaching the worst level in April 2020 in the first week of November. More than 9,200 Coloradans have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
“COVID numbers are currently a statewide issue,” Combs said. “We are not a unique hot spot in the state.”
He placed the ultimate blame for Aurora’s problems on Douglas County, whose decision to go his own way left the city in the lurch.
“We have allowed extremists in Douglas County to hijack our public health conversations,” Combs said.
In a statement Tuesday, the city said it needed time to review the new mask order with its legal advisor before saying more. Tri-County spokeswoman Becky O’Gin said her agency “can certainly understand the frustration about Aurora’s various regulations in three counties.”
“The good news is that the Douglas County portion of Aurora is residential and not subject to this order, which only applies to public indoor spaces,” she said. “While Tri-County appreciates cooperation with cities such as Aurora in implementing previous public health orders and will continue to do so in the current situation, such cooperation is not needed for our city partners, and we expect Let us do that we will largely implement the order through education and in response to complaints.”
The tri-county’s mask order is in effect until January 2.
Steve Sundberg, who owns the Legends of Aurora Sports Grill and won a seat on Aurora City Council on November 2, said he wants masks to remain optional in the city. He was one of the signers of Tuesday’s letter.
“It is difficult and difficult to work in this environment when it is difficult to get oxygen,” he said of his employees at his restaurant. “People have gotten over it – if vaccines work so well, why are masks necessary again?”
Kevin Haugen, president and CEO of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, said the new mask order for Arapahoe and Adams counties complicates matters for their 800 member businesses in Aurora.
“Our brick-and-mortar businesses are really going to suffer,” he said, fearing that even more consumers will turn to e-commerce and delivery to avoid wearing masks in public places. “You can see why there’s so much confusion and anger with people trying to hang in there with their businesses for the past two years.”