PERRY: Stop cowering on a covering law. If Texas can mandate masks, we can, too

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Colorado lives and livelihoods are at stake because health and political leaders fear a mask mandate as if it were an order to confiscate every gun in the state.

Even Texas, a textbook example of how not to run a state during a viral pandemic, has somehow mustered the political backbone to do the smartest, easiest thing governments can do to do slow and prevent the spread of COVID-19: Make everyone wear a mask in public.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday enacted just such a mandate.

Yes, that Texas.

Once a leading force, along with President Donald Trump, in undermining the use of masks to contain the pandemic, Abbot has now embraced science as his state becomes awash in infection, again.

“We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another — and that means wearing a face covering in public spaces,” Abbott said.

Yes, that Abbott.

The science here, and across the world is irrefutable. Wearing cloth face coverings in public prevents tiny droplets of virus-infected saliva and mucus from becoming airborne and evaporating into virus-tainted vapor that can easily infect anyone nearby.

Since even former critics of mask mandates are now on board, how is it that Colorado, a progressive state in the fight against the virus, and the Aurora region, a massive urban complex that has long been a progressive leader in public health, can’t muster a mandate?

This week produced a near Abbot and Costello comedy routine among top officials as Gov. Jared Polis, Mayor Mike Coffman and Tri-County Executive Director Dr. John Douglas became embroiled, again, in a game of “no, you go first.”

Polis has been repeatedly pressured to invoke a statewide mask mandate. Regularly, almost daily, he pleads with Colorado residents to wear masks in public. He has steadfastly refused to invoke a mandate, telling The Sentinel on more than once occasion that he won’t do it because the state has no enforcement mechanism. He has also, repeatedly, said he supports local mandates.

Douglas, who makes decisions for the health department encompassing not just Aurora, but all of Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties — home to about 1.5 million people — also is a staunch advocate for face coverings in public, and he’s told The Sentinel previously that he supports mask mandates — if everybody else does. He just doesn’t want to be the one invoke one.

So in Aurora, that would take an order from City Manager Jim Twombly, who in the past, has signaled he would impose a mask mandate — if the city council agreed to support one. That nearly happened almost a month ago when Douglas addressed the city council on just that topic. Douglas and city lawmakers agreed that a mask mandate would be helpful in the fight against the virus and ensuring businesses stay open, but city council wanted to support a mandate Douglas would make, and Douglas wanted to support a mandate the city council would invoke.

It went nowhere.

All this got dumber this week when Coffman started the “Who’s On First” routine again in a tweet. After some confusion, the only clear thing is that there is an Aurora City Council meeting on Monday. There, city lawmakers could vote to support a city mask mandate, and actually invoke it themselves, just like Wheat Ridge, Denver and other cities have. If Aurora just can’t stand the pressure, they could pass a resolution supporting a mask mandate from Polis or Tri-County Health.

It appears that Coffman’s tweet has prompted a special meeting of the Tri-County Board of Health just to address this possibility. There, the board could invoke mandates for the region, which would be the smart thing to do.  Or they could at least invoke mandates in counties and municipalities that support them, which would be the least they can do.

Of course the easiest and smartest thing to do is for Polis to go full-Texas on this no-brainer and impose mandates in counties or municipalities with a baseline rate of infection, which is what Abbott did.

But to risk lives and jobs just because the fear of this political boogie man is more than leaders can bear is exasperating and inexcusable.

Businesses are clamoring for the mandate so they don’t have to be the bad guy among the relatively few science-challenged naysayers in the state. School leaders are hoping for mandates for the same reason: to point to a law that gives them political cover from people in the community who just can’t or refuse to grasp reality — masks mandates save lives and jobs.

This routine isn’t funny. It’s ridiculous. Require masks in public just like every credible expert in the world wants us to.

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