Colorado's mask confusion

(Aina Akamu via AP)

In case you hadn’t heard, Jared Polis, the Democratic Governor of Colorado, issued yet another mandate earlier this week extending the state face mask mandate for another month. But he also added some “tweaks” to the mandate, apparently trying to offer a bit of relief from the restrictions. Calling these provisions “tweaks” is being charitable because the new orders include a confusing mashup of “if this, then that” exceptions to the overall rules. Let’s go over a couple of examples.

Masks are still required indoors at bars and restaurants and other businesses. But only if you are in a county where there are more than 35 cases per 100,000 people. But if there are fewer than ten people inside, you don’t need to wear them. If there are ten or more people inside and 80% of them are fully vaccinated, masks are not required. Has your head started spinning yet. The local CBS News outlet in Denver went out to speak to some of the affected business owners and it turns out that many of them have no idea how to go about complying with these orders and are really not inclined to try.

“We can’t ask our staff to do much more. It’s hard to train them to do new things especially when there’s not that much information on how to do it,” Spears said.

Around the state organizations, health departments, and businesses were all scrambling to see how the loosened order for vaccinated people would apply.

“This puts restaurants in a really difficult position of having to regulate their employees and regulate the customers who come into their establishment. And these are businesses in the business of customer service. They want to make people feel comfortable and now they’re being faced with a situation to ask customers potentially personal medical information before allowing them into their establishment,” said Mollie Steinemann, the Colorado Restaurant Association Local Government Affairs Manager.

Has Governor Polis ever run a business? Has he ever been to a restaurant or a bar? Does he have any clue how ridiculous those orders are and how impossible it would be for owners to keep everyone in compliance?

Every day, first thing in the morning, the owner will have to check the local news to see how many active cases there are in the county. If the number is low enough, they’ll be able to call the staff and tell them not to worry about enforcing the mask mandate. But if the number is too high, then the next sets of rules kick into play. A hostess or waiter will need to check the room and see how many people are already inside. If the number is under ten, they don’t have to ask anyone to mask up. But once the number reaches ten, they have to go back to the last nine people they let in and ask to see their vaccination status. Then they’ll need to figure out what 80% of the total is and if that many people are vaccinated. If not, then they have to ask everyone to put on a mask.

All of this assumes that none of the customers turn around and say that their personal medical information is none of your damned business. It also assumes that none of the people who you previously allowed in without a mask don’t just get up and walk out, causing you to do the math all over again. Or worse, perhaps try to punch you in the nose.

Another restaurant owner asked, “What does proof of vaccination look like? Is it vaccine cards, is it a note from your doctor?” She has no idea what to tell her servers or if it’s even legal to demand to see someone’s immunity passports or CDC immunization cards. She also remembers customers starting fights with the staff last year before they were shut down entirely and doesn’t want to see that happen again.

Waiters and bartenders should not be responsible for enforcing these sorts of mandates. They are neither police officers nor doctors in the vast majority of cases. And since a good portion of their income frequently relies on tips, forcing them to interact with their customers in ways that are almost certainly going to tick them off is basically taking money out of their pockets.

Polis is demonstrating how easy it is to sit in the governor’s mansion and bark out orders that you think make for good soundbites on the evening news. But he seems to be entirely clueless about the real-world impact of these mandates on working men and women. Either have a mask mandate or don’t. And when your next election comes around the people will let you know how good of a job you did.