SAN LUIS VALLEY- All across the state Friday, July 17, as phones across the state blurted out emergency notification tones, law enforcement departments took state their opposition or support for the new statewide mask mandate issued by Governor Jared Polis through executive order as a response to COVID-19.
According to his news conference held Thursday, July 16, the Governor issued the mandate stating that COVID-19 cases were continuously rising and the only way to stop the spread was to make masks mandatory in populated indoor areas, businesses, restaurants and outdoors if social distancing measures could not be practiced.
Local law enforcement in Del Norte, Rio Grande County, South Fork and Mineral County issued statements clarifying their stance on the new state executive order of mandatory masks.
Del Norte Police Chief Frank Archuleta stated that DNPD will be on the side of businesses in town. “It is not set into law and we will refer to Public Health orders from both local and state departments for outdoor recreational use of masks but we will protect businesses who require masks. The business owner has the right to refuse service to anyone who chooses not to wear a mask. That is their right as a business owner. We can charge an individual who decided to be difficult about the new mandate in a business with trespassing or disorderly conduct if they take it too far.”
“We are here to help, both the public and the business owners. We are always going to try to educate and talk to people; gain compliance rather than have issues but we will enforce it if the business owners ask that of us.”
Rio Grande County Sheriff Don McDonald and South Fork Police Chief Coty Arthur are handling the situation in the same manner. McDonald said one word when asked about his stance on the mask order, “Educate.” The Sheriff and his crew, as well as those with South Fork Police Department, will focus their attention on educating and encouraging the public to follow state mandates but are not out to “enforce” anything outside of what the businesses require.
On the other hand, businesses like Two River’s BBQ in South Fork issued statements on Facebook and other social platforms that they would continue to leave it up to the customer to decide for themselves whether or not to wear masks on their premises.
The Rainbow Grocery Store in South Fork also had another view on the new orders stating that though they do not agree with the mandate that they would comply for fear of being shut down.
Mineral County Sheriff Fred Hosselkus had this to say, “We are not going to be the mask police, but if a business has an issue with somebody refusing to leave their building, then we will assist in removing them.”
The mask mandate has added to the already stressed economies throughout the Valley as community after community has watched COVID-19 numbers slowly rise and deflate over the last several months though many are experiencing more people using masks since the executive order was put in place Friday and overwhelming support from the public to help comply with the current mandate.
The entire executive order issued by the Governor can be found at http://www.silverthreadpublichealth.org/wp-content/uploads/D-2020-138-Mask-Order.pdf