Rep. Matt Soper and Taiwan delegation

Taiwan diplomat Jerry Chang, who delivered on behalf of his nation a donation of 10,000 medical-grade masks to the state House on June 11. Photo courtesy Rep. Matt Soper of Delta.

The Mesa County Public Health Department is scrambling to emphasize that the mask mandate has not been lifted in that county, a response to comments Gov. Jared Polis made on Tuesday that have led some to believe the county no longer has to follow it.

Polis held a virtual press conference Tuesday, and according to KKCO TV-11 in Grand Junction, the governor said "there are some counties, including Mesa County, and six others, that have a low enough threshold, they have larger events, they can have their bars open to 2, and they don’t even have to have a mask-wearing requirement."

That's been interpreted by some people that Mesa County no longer has a mask mandate.

Not so, says state Rep. Matt Soper, a Delta Republican whose district includes rural Mesa County. 

Mesa County Public Health issued a statement Thursday emphasizing that the mask mandate has not been withdrawn. The county is still at the "Protect Our Neighbors" phase, which does have the most latitude in dealing with mandates. The department said that they still require all businesses to operate at 50% of normal capacity, limit indoor occupancy to 500 people, require "last call" for alcohol sales in restaurants to end at midnight, and that "cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth must be worn for interactions where physical distancing is not possible or when entering and moving throughout indoor public places. Face coverings can be removed while seated."

Soper told Colorado Politics on Thursday that "the governor gave everyone hope that we're getting away from the mandate" but that just isn't the case. "Our infection rates are rising and if we continue to increase beyond 75 cases per two-week period, we will lose our variance and be forced to go back to 'Safer at Home,' " Soper said. "We are currently at 200 cases for this two-week period."

The county public health department reported a single-day record of 35 cases on Oct. 1.

The county public health department is "working vigorously to get us away from mandatory masks," but "we need to follow their recommendations, which have kept our rates lower so far," Soper said. "Now is not the time to stop wearing masks and risk losing the local control we have through our variance."

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