Adams County, Arapahoe County, Boulder County, Coronavirus, Denver, Featured, Jefferson County, Larimer County

Sheriffs say they won’t enforce local mask orders; that responsibility belongs to health officials

DENVER — While Governor Jared Polis continues to stand firm against pressure from both public health officials and some media outlets to reinstitute a statewide mask mandate, sheriffs in counties where local mandates are in effect say they won’t be enforcing them.

Mask mandates are now in place in Larimer, Boulder, Jefferson, Denver, Arapahoe and Adams counties. But all of the sheriffs contacted by Complete Colorado say while they will educate citizens on the health orders if they are in contact with someone without a mask, they will not be enforcing them unless it escalates to a larger criminal matter.

Mike Taplin, public information officer for Jefferson County, said despite the fact that disregarding a public health order is a criminal charge (misdemeanor), Sheriff Jeff Shrader’s office will not be enforcing it.

“We will not take action on a mask violation,” Taplin said. “But if someone is committing another crime, such as if they are told to leave and don’t, which is trespassing, that we will enforce.”

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith has said since early 2020 his office will not enforce health department mandates. Representatives from the offices of Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown and Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle both echoed the remarks of their counterparts.

“Our deputies aren’t going around and ticketing unmasked individuals, but we would respond to a disturbance involving mask use, if needed,” said Carrie Haverfield, Public Information Specialist for the Boulder Sheriff’s Office.

Complete Colorado had not heard back from Adams County Sheriff Rick Reigenborn at press time. The appointed Denver Sheriff does not have the same authorities as elected sheriffs across Colorado, therefore cannot make that determination on his own.

Sheriffs say it is up to public health departments to enforce the mandate and any issues should be reported there.

Polis has said repeatedly for months that he has no interest in reinstituting a statewide mask order, leaving it to unelected health department officials to institute orders county by county, essentially dumping enforcement on small business owners and employees.

“I’ve made it clear that it’s not something that we are considering as a state,” Polis said in a news conference earlier this week.

Polis has previously pointed to COVID statistics of neighboring New Mexico, which has had a statewide mask mandate in place for months yet has the second-highest infection rate in the country and continues to see growing cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

According to an article in the Colorado Sun, Polis said masks will only “delay” when you get COVID.

“It’s not going to prevent you from getting COVID, and, when you get COVID, if you’re unvaccinated, it’s going to be just as bad,” Polis told the Sun.

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