Pueblo’s mayor wants a new countywide mask mandate

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A mural near the corner of Main and 2nd streets in Pueblo, on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, depicts the flood that devastated the city 100 years ago.

Pueblo’s mayor has submitted a letter to his local health board requesting it institute a countywide mask mandate inside all public places unless all people inside have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The letter asks that the mandate last until Jan. 31.

“When this pandemic began everyone hoped it would be over by now,” Mayor Nick Gradisar wrote. “Unfortunately, it is not and we are now preparing for winter months of cold weather, indoor sports activities, indoor dining and group gatherings indoors.”

Gradisar said Pueblo County recently had the highest COVID infection rate and the highest death rate of any county in the state. Since then, however, several other Colorado counties have now overtaken Pueblo in those categories, according to data compiled by the New York Times.

The letter, submitted to the Pueblo County Board of Health Thursday, also included signatures from CSU Pueblo President Tim Mottet, state. Rep. Daneya Esgar and Parkview Health System CEO and President Leslie Barnes, according to Gradisar.

Despite the support for the move, the mayor also said Friday he experienced organized opposition to signing the letter, including from a member of the very health department board to which the letter was sent.

“Obviously, there’s a difference of opinion over whether mask orders should be entered,” Gradisar said. “[The letter] seemed like a small enough thing to do to try to keep our hospitals under capacity … I felt like some consideration needed to be made of the mitigation efforts, instead of just sitting back and doing nothing.”

Both of the city’s hospitals have been at 90-percent capacity for weeks, needing at times to send patients to nearby cities due to a lack of room, Gradisar said.

Several other Colorado counties have instituted masking orders similar to the one Gradisar is proposing, including Denver county. Pueblo already requires indoor masking in K-12 Schools, at Pueblo Community College, at CSU Pueblo, and in city government buildings and hospitals.

Gradisar said he hopes the health board will vote on the new mask order during their next meeting on Dec. 22. An agenda for that meeting has not been released.