The mayor of Aurora and five current or soon-to-be members of its council have asked the city manager not to enforce an indoor mask mandate instituted by Tri-County Health because the agency doesn't have authority over the entire city.
Signed by Mayor Mike Coffman, two council members and three council members-elect, the letter asks City Manager Jim Twombly to not have city personnel enforce an indoor mask mandate for people 2 years of age and older, which was approved Monday night by Tri-County Health's board.
After a spat with Douglas County in late summer, which ended with that county breaking away, Tri-County has authority over only Arapahoe and Adams counties. But Aurora spans all three, the officials said, and thus the requirement cannot be employed uniformly.
Coffman said Tuesday morning that the letter was a request, and that he had agreed to meet with Tri-County after Thanksgiving to discuss the order. The piece of Aurora that is in Douglas County is small and residential, he said.
Had six sitting members signed, he said, the letter would've been a requirement, meaning the city manager would've had to stop enforcing the order. But three of the signatories — Danielle Jurinsky, Steve Sundberg and Dustin Zvonek — have yet to be seated. Mayor pro tem Françoise Bergan and current councilman Curtis Gardner also signed the letter.
"It's really a reflection of a general frustration that in one city, you know, we’ve had one health department with some uniformity and that uniformity is broken up," Coffman said. "Now we’re fractioned in three different parts in our city, and it’s very frustrating, and it’s very hard to deal with."
Because of Tri-County's fractured authority, itself a product of mask order fighting, the letter's authors asked Twombly to only enforce orders that come from the state and have uniformity across all of Aurora and Colorado. As of Tuesday morning, that would mean no mask order at all: Tri-County Health and other metro agencies have moved ahead with their own orders because Gov. Jared Polis has not shown any interest in requiring face coverings statewide.
He has instead advocated for counties to come up with their own approaches, saying local control is the best path forward. But Aurora is an encapsulation of the limitations of that position.
"If the state orders a mask mandate, then I think the city of Aurora should enforce it evenly across our city," Gardner said. "This is not an anti-mask position; this is a consistency position."
Messages sent to spokespeople for the city of Aurora and for Tri-County Health were not immediately returned Tuesday morning.