Coronavirus, Featured, Sherrie Peif, Weld County

Weld County Commissioners reaffirm decision to not enforce Polis mask mandate

GREELEY — The Board of Weld County Commissioners explained to less than a half-dozen Greeley teachers on Monday why they choose not to enforce Gov. Jared Polis’ latest Executive Order and stood by that decision.

The commissioners’ comments came after four residents spoke in opposition to the commission’s announcement made Friday, the day the governor put in place a mandatory mask order for all Colorado residents not living in areas where there are previously-granted variances that exclude the order.

Therese Gilbert holds her mask in her hand as she shares her frustration with Weld County Commissioners over their announcement they won’t enforce Gov. Jared Polis’ mask mandate.

Long-time Greeley teacher and progressive-policy activist Therese Gilbert sent out a message Sunday to Greeley teachers asking them to come show their opposition to the commissioners at a regularly scheduled meeting Monday morning. There were a couple additional people in the room, with masks, who gathered outside the building after the meeting that appeared in support of Gilbert but chose not to speak to commissioners.

“While some found your announcement last Friday annoying, I found it absolutely — as a teacher here in Greeley — infuriating,” Gilbert said. “It is irresponsible, as the de-facto health department, to say that we will not enforce a mandate for mask wearing. … I have no illusions that teachers are no different than JBS workers on the kill floor. We just might have master’s degrees. How did you manage that situation?

“Weld County is like the kid who comes into class who won’t sit down. Won’t listen to instructions. You’re encouraging them to get to work. Everyone else around them is working. Halfway through class you’ve told him, redirected him a few times. The instructions are on the board, but they are still not listening.”

Gilbert’s remarks came after she bantered with Board Chairman Mike Freeman about not wanting to use the podium to speak because a previous speaker had used it without wearing a mask. Freeman gave her the option to speak at another microphone, which she did. However, when Gilbert sat down and started speaking about the importance of masks, she removed her own mask and also spoke without it, leaving that microphone to be used by another mask supporter.

Most who spoke against the commissioners cited data that supported their fear that students may lose their lives if they return to school without masks. After the meeting those same teachers gathered outside and talked about leaving the district and starting their own private instruction organization that would take them out of the classroom and put them in private homes to teach students whose parents are too afraid to send their children to school.

Those that spoke in support of the commissioners’ decision cited of lack of consistent scientific information and the right to choose how to best handle their own beliefs and health concerns.

“Many of people who are unaware that masks trap bacteria and moisture that can ultimately cause life-threatening illnesses are advocating children be subjected to breathing their own bacteria for hours as they sit in class,” said Debra Taylor, who said she nearly lost her daughter to such an infection. “If they have the virus, they are trapping the virus as well as other germs. The masks are supposed to be protecting other people by trapping these things, but what is it doing to the bodies of the young children?”

Taylor thanked commissioners for letting people make their own choices.

When the public hearing portion was closed, four of the five commissioners reiterated their reasons for the Weld County Health Department not enforcing Polis’ order. Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer was not in attendance; she is on vacation.

Here are the highlights of what commissioners had to say:

Scott James: “This has nothing to do with politics. This has nothing to do with the governor. It has everything to do with rule of law and authority. The county attorney has issued the opinion that this mandate has no authority. While I agree that mask wearing is probably a good thing for those that choose to do so, the CDC has changed its mind twice on whether mask wearing is good. The WHO has changed its mind twice on whether mask wearing is good. So therefore, whenever there is no certainty, I believe it’s best to lean on the intelligence of the people to make the decisions that are right for themselves, their families, their businesses, their communities and exercise their personal responsibilities and their liberty and chose what is best for them. That is freedom and that is the nation we live in.”

Steve Moreno: “Data is very important. And when we make our decisions about this pandemic … we are constantly in communications with our doctors in this county and looking at what we see in this county, this state and what’s happening across the nation. We are not taking this lightly. I know that some of you out there don’t think we have a heart or that we don’t care about individuals losing their lives. Absolutely we do. Every one of us has something we can share a story about how our families are vulnerable. I have a wife that’s diabetic. My parents and my in-laws are all vulnerable. We have to take care of each other.”

Kevin Ross: “There are no blank faces out there in the community. Everybody does matter. Everybody is represented. Sometimes it may not feel like it, but the decisions were making is based on data as it relates to Weld County. That is what we are tasked with, is looking over Weld County. This isn’t a political stunt. It’s simply doing the right thing for Weld County, and that is standing up for the rule of law.”

Mike Freeman: “Weld County Commissioners don’t have any say over what occurs in the schools. That is up to the individual school districts. That is the specific government that gets to make those decisions. Those school boards and those superintendents will make those decisions that they believe are in the best interest of their kids. That is what we are doing as well. We are not telling anyone to not wear a mask. We are saying if you are an individual owns a business and you require a mask that is your building. It’s no different than the signs that you see that say no shoes, no shirt, no service.  As a business owner you make that decision. As a consumer you make the decision if you want to go in that business or not. That’s what this is about. It’s about liberty; it’s about personal responsibility. It has nothing to do with whether I personally support wearing a mask.”

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