By Randi Pierce
As of noon Wednesday, Archuleta County had 25 total positive cases of COVID-19 among residents, with eight cases reported as recovered by San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH).
Archuleta County had eight cases from April 17 to June 29, with cases tripling since. Seven new cases were posted on SJBPH’s data dashboard for Archuleta County Wednesday, bringing the count to 25 cases among residents.
From Tuesday to Wednesday, SJBPH reported 19 new total cases on its dashboard between both counties it serves: six for Archuleta County, 11 for La Plata County, and a new nonresident positive in each Archuleta and La Plata counties.
Wednesday’s update revealed 25 nonresidents who have tested positive in Archuleta County, though the website acknowledges that figure may not include all the nonresidents positives tested in Archuleta County.
SJBPH’s figure, according to the agency’s website, “includes cases who were visiting from another country, state or county in Colorado. This will include any cases that are reported to SJBPH and were tracked or investigated by the team. This will not include cases who live in La Plata county but sought medical care in Archuleta.”
Regional cumulative case counts
As of noon on Wednesday, La Plata County was reported as having 179 cases (with two deaths among cases). As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Conejos County was reported as having 21, Rio Grande County logged 84 (with two deaths), Mineral County had 17 and Hinsdale County was listed as having three.
Neighboring and near Archuleta County to the south, Rio Arriba County, N.M., listed 251 cases (with 44 recovered and one death), and San Juan County, N.M., listed 2,861 cases (with 1,625 recovered and 176 deaths) as of Tuesday afternoon.
The Jicarilla Apache Nation, which largely falls within Rio Arriba County, had announced 177 cases as of 3 p.m. July 21, with 101 recovered and two deaths.
Due to community spread within the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the nation announced that a stay-at-home order will be in effect from 9 p.m. July 26 through 5 a.m. on Aug. 10.
Mask order in effect, last call changed
Following an executive order by Gov. Jared Polis on July 16, Colorado is now under a mandatory mask order.
Per the executive order, anyone in Colorado older than 10 years old must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when entering or moving within any public indoor space.
“Wearing a mask is an easy and highly effective way to significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19. The more we wear masks, the safer we will be and the stronger our economy will grow,” Polis said while announcing the executive order. “Unfortunately, this pandemic is far from over, cases are up, and we have to find a way to live sustainably while protecting ourselves and those around us. Masks are the ticket to the Colorado we love and a critical part of supporting Colorado’s economy and prosperity. The best way to support Colorado workers and businesses right now is to wear a mask. I’ve said this from the beginning, and it’s still true today: Together, we will get through this.”
Per the state, “A public indoor space is defined as any enclosed indoor area that is publicly or privately owned, managed or operated to which individuals have access by right or by invitation, expressed or implied, and that is accessible to the public, serves as a place of employment, or is an entity providing services.”
The definition of public indoor space does not mean a person’s residence, hotel room or residential room for students at an educational facility, the state notes.
Individuals 10 years old and younger, and those who cannot medically tolerate a face covering, are exempt from the order.
On Tuesday, Polis announced another change across the state due to coronavirus: For the next 30 days, the last call for alcohol will be at 10 p.m. instead of 2 a.m.
According to the state, individuals performing the following activities are also exempt from the requirements of the executive order requiring face coverings while the activity is being performed:
• Individuals who are hearing impaired or otherwise disabled or who are communicating with someone who is hearing impaired or otherwise disabled and where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication;
• Individuals who are seated at a food service establishment;
• Individuals who are exercising alone or with others from the individual’s household and a face covering would interfere with the activity;
• Individuals who are receiving a personal service where the temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service;
• Individuals who enter a business or receive services and are asked to temporarily remove a face covering for identification purposes;
• Individuals who are actively engaged in a public safety role such as law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel;
• Individuals who are officiating at a religious service; or
• Individuals who are giving a speech for broadcast or an audience.
“To protect workers, customers, and the community, no business serving the public in a Public Indoor Space may provide service to a customer or allow a customer to enter or move within that Public Indoor Space, unless the customer is wearing a face covering,” a press release states.
During the same press conference, Polis noted that the state would take a two-week pause on issuing any new variances to counties, and noted that counties that had previously certified for Protect Our Neighbors could choose to become exempt from the order.
Archuleta County remains under Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors.
What if you don’t wear a mask?
The executive order states, “Any individual who knowingly enters or remains in a Public Indoor Space in violation of the terms of this Executive Order may be subject to civil or criminal penalties, including but not limited to prosecution for trespass.”
According to the state’s website, if you refuse to wear a mask as required in the executive order, you are violating a Colorado law and are subject to civil or criminal penalties.
If you try to enter a store without a mask, you may be prosecuted for trespassing, it notes.
Pagosa Springs Town Manager Andrea Phillips noted in an email to The SUN that the town, including Pagosa Springs Police Department (PSPD), will enforce the order and will be responding to complaints.
Phillips reported that the town is reminding people of the mandate through ads in local media, and on digital message boards at each end of town, and the Pagosa Springs Area Chamber of Commerce is also sharing the messages, as well as the tourism department.
“Per the order, businesses are required to refuse entry to anyone 11 yrs and older not wearing a face covering (with medical exemption considered of course). If the business is not able to get the person to comply with the Governor’s order, and can’t get them to leave, the business owner can file a complaint with PD and request the offender be removed from the business. Our Police Dept can charge them with trespassing,” she explained.
She further clarified that PSPD officers will not be enforcing the wearing of masks within businesses, but will respond to businesses.
“It is the business owner’s responsibility. If their patrons won’t wear it and refuse to leave, then PD can respond to a request for a trespass charge,” she wrote.
Similarly, Archuleta County Sheriff Rich Valdez noted that while mask calls will not be a high priority, his department will respond to trespass and disorderly conduct calls like normal.
“We want people to respect each other’s decision to wear a mask or not wear a mask,” Valdez said, noting that his deputies will respond and provide support, but that enforcing mask-wearing comes with challenges, including his office’s minimal staffing.
Valdez further urged people to think before getting into an altercation over a mask that could take resources away from other emergencies.