As readers know, most of the counties making up the Denver metropolitan area have announced a return to mandatory mask use in most public indoor settings. Suburban Jefferson County along with the two counties still serviced by the Tri-County Health Department, Adams and Arapahoe County, were joined by Denver in reinstating mask mandates until the current surge of COVID-19 cases trends downward. The other county nominally a part of the erstwhile “Tri-County” Health Department, Douglas County, stands alone in refusing to mandate mask use after having pulled out of TCHD in protest of requiring masks in Douglas County public schools.
Conservative Douglas County’s refusal to enforce a mask mandate while the state struggles to cope with skyrocketing COVID-19 cases is the backdrop for the first test of the city of Aurora’s new Republican majority on the City Council, after Mayor Mike Coffman’s campaign to pack the Council with Republican loyalists became one of the only bright spots in an otherwise poor showing for Colorado Republicans in the off-year 2021 elections. As the Aurora Sentinel’s Kara Mason reports, Republicans on the City Council are seizing on Douglas County’s refusal to go along with the rest of the metro area’s mask mandate as a pretext to let the whole city of Aurora disregard the Tri-County Health Department’s mask mandate:
The mask mandate in Aurora, imposed by the Tri-County Health Department, which overlays Aurora and all of Adams and Arapahoe counties, could be in jeopardy after some Republican members of the city council asked the city manager to refuse the order.
A group of sitting and newly-elected Republican Aurora City Council members on Tuesday requested the city disregard a new mask mandate for Adams and Arapahoe counties because it doesn’t cover a sliver of residents in Douglas County, which has no public establishments.
The council members all signed a letter, saying it would cause inequity about where in Aurora the mask mandate would be required and where it wouldn’t. There are, however, no commercial businesses in the Douglas County portion of Aurora, according to city data. [Pols emphasis]
The letter said the Tri-County measure “has placed the City of Aurora in a situation where the new mandate will not evenly apply to all our city’s residents.”
Understand this clearly: the Republican members of the Aurora City Council are arguing that because a portion of their city is located in Douglas County, there should be no mask mandate in the areas of the city located in Adams and Arapahoe Counties in order to promote “consistency.” The problem? Look at a map of Aurora:
The tiny sliver of Douglas County within the city of Aurora’s boundaries contains less than 1% of the total population of Aurora–2,560 out of over 386,000 according to the 2020 Census. As the Sentinel reports, the area of Aurora south of County Line Road is also entirely residential–meaning there are exactly zero businesses who would be forced against their God-given right as Douglas County residents to require masks.
Obviously, the idea that this small area of Douglas County with no affected businesses should be able to dictate policy to the overwhelming majority…well, it’s an idea so perfectly outrageous that only a brand-new Republican city council majority would be foolish enough to do this. From the CU medical campus on down the line of Aurora stakeholders this is certain to provoke a major backlash–and serve as a warning for Aurora voters about the choice they just made at the ballot box.
It’s one of the clearest cases of Republicans “fighting for the 1%” you’ll ever see.