City leaders may require wearing masks in public. Offenders could go to jail.

The Colorado Springs City Council planned to vote on a mask law in today’s meeting but thought better of it during Monday's study session. Council members plan to delay a vote until they get a recommendation from the El Paso County Health Department. Health officials were not prepared to weigh in on Monday or Tuesday.

Gov. Jared Polis continues resisting pressure to issue a statewide mask mandate, citing the state’s inability to enforce it. The governor prefers voluntary compliance.

“Wear a damn mask,” Polis said at a July 9 news conference.

People who can wear masks should do so in public unless and until the virus subsides, or scientists develop a vaccine. At this juncture, a sound body of recent scientific evidence suggests wearing masks can reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Businesses all over the city, county, and state are asking customers, or requiring them, to wear masks. State officials estimate about 70% of people comply.

For most, wearing a mask is a minor inconvenience. It is a low price to pay to keep businesses open and avoid additional shelter-at-home orders.

Politicians, business leaders, clergy, educators, parents, and all people of influence should encourage the wearing of masks. Respectfully explain the benefits of erring on the side of reasonable caution.

Mask shaming does not work. It backfires. It leads to shouting matches in stores and a desire by anti-maskers to double down in opposition.

Likewise, a mask law would intensify division for little in return. As promised by protesters outside the City Council’s study session, some individuals will simply refuse to obey a mask mandate. They will take pleasure in flouting it, questioning whether a government has the authority to forcibly cover the mouths of the governed.

Though masks are a good idea for most, they aren’t for everyone. The Centers for Disease Control recently issued a list of those who should not wear masks all or much of the time. They include children under age two; “anyone who has trouble breathing”; those “unable to remove” masks without assistance; people who assist the hearing impaired; people with intellectual, mental, or sensory conditions; those who work near water or machinery; and more.

The Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC supports a mask mandate because of concerns Polis might rescind variances granted for the reopening of businesses. They believe a mask law would reduce that possibility.

Councilman Wayne Williams, the former Colorado secretary of state, expressed objection to passing a governor-appeasement law.

“This nation was not founded on the idea that you must get a charter from the king to establish your business,” Williams said. “It was founded on the notion that you as business owners should be able to engage in your business.”

Williams said he cannot support a mask mandate unless local health officials determine “there is a pressing medical need” for it.

Councilman Andres Pico said businesses can say ‘no shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service.’ We don’t need a government mandate with criminal sanctions to do that.”

The government should always advocate safe and healthy behavior. It should not make laws designed to force those behaviors and eliminate risk. To do so consistently, the government would outlaw alcohol, which could stop drunk driving deaths and cirrhosis. It would outlaw smoking, which kills smokers and non-smokers alike. It would outlaw motorcycles, guns, and more.

Living involves risk every minute of each day. Individuals should take reasonable measures to mitigate the dangers they pose to themselves and others. During the pandemic, most can do so by wearing masks. It is a reasonable sacrifice, but not a behavior the government can force with an unenforceable law.

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