County commissioners discuss face coverings

By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

At their work session on Tuesday, two of the Archuleta County commissioners weighed in on what Commissioner Ron Maez called a “hot topic”: whether the government should mandate wearing face coverings in public.

Maez explained a commissioner from another part of the state asked if Archuleta County might write a letter of support for a statewide face covering mandate in public and then generally discussed the issue with Commissioner Alvin Schaaf.

“What I look at is resources if this starts occurring. If the mandate’s put into play, who’s gonna enforce it? How are they gonna enforce it and with what money are they gonna get to enforce it?” Maez said, adding, “I know it’s threatening — it’s life-threatening, but it’s not an immediate life-threatening situation and it puts another call load onto the 911 services … The county really doesn’t have the resources to expand the enforcement of this.”

“I just don’t understand at what point it became government’s responsibility to tell people what to do when it comes to health and safety,” Schaaf said. “We’re adults, most of us, and the children have parents who can make decisions for them. I’d like to be able to make the choice, whether or not [inaudible] that I wanna wear a mask. Personally, I can’t because of health reasons, but I should have a choice, and I shouldn’t have to worry about my neighbor calling in and say, ‘Hey this guy’s not wearing a mask, he’s not social distancing.’ This is still a free society …”

“Bottom line is it’s a matter of respect,” Maez said. “If we respect everybody else’s choice, we may not like the choices they choose, but we should definitely have respect for how they choose to safeguard themselves. Businesses have the right to mandate a face covering within their business. It’s up to that business to make that decision and I’ll support that. But until the people come together and we all learn that we gotta respect everyone else’s opinion — we may not like it and we can voice our opinion on it, but we gotta respect it, no matter what.”

Commissioner Steve Wadley was absent for the work session on Tuesday, but was the first commissioner to bring up the face covering issue at the commissioners’ work session a week prior on July 7.

“I’m gettin’ a lot of questions about masks,” said Wadley. “I think we ought to talk about it at some point. I know that some people are adamantly opposed to it and some people are adamantly in favor of it. It’s gonna be one of those where you have to make half the people mad and the other half real mad. I know the town’s taken it up, and I think at some point we should take it up also.”

Later that night, the Pagosa Springs Town Council considered a resolution requesting wearing of face covering in public within town limits, and Maez noted at the July 7 work session that he wanted to take his cues from them.

“I’d rather see what their decision is, and if their decision is for education and support, you know, the signage and gettin’ the message out there, I think the county ought to help them with that,” Maez said. “But maybe let’s wait and see what the town renders tonight and then see whether or not the commissioners want to move in with that or not.”

The town council approved a resolution that night requesting residents and visitors to wear face coverings when in town limits.

 

This story was posted on July 20, 2020.