As a doctor, Dr PJ Parmar knows that masks effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As a business owner, Parmar knows that masks alienate customers.
So at Mango House, a Parmar-owned mall on East Colfax Avenue in Aurora, patients at his family clinic wear masks. People who eat and shop in other businesses do not have to. Parmar wishes it could be different, but ordering buyers and diners to wear masks scares them off, he said.
âI run a shopping center where all the tenants are my patients and all of their customers are my patients. I know exactly what’s going on, âhe said. âIt makes it a lot easier for everyone if you let the government be the bad guy. Then you could just say, âSorry, it’s the governor. “
Nineteen months after the start of the pandemic, Colorado businesses and their customers are tasked with making public health decisions as Governor Jared Polis refuses to reinstate statewide mask mandate despite advice from state and federal health experts that the masks help prevent the spread of the virus.
In the past, Polis has said the number of hospitalizations will be his guide to implementing virus-related warrants. But with fewer hospital beds available this week than at any time during the pandemic, Scott Bookman, the state’s COVID-19 incident commander, said on Wednesday it was up to local policymakers to bring back the mask warrants because counties in the state have different levels of transmission. He and other public health officials want businesses and restaurants to require masks to stem the spread.
As of Friday afternoon, more than 1,184 Coloradans were hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 and 95 were being assessed for the virus.
But local governments, including Denver, are also reluctant to reinstate mask warrants.
Courtney Ronner, spokesperson for the Denver Department of Public Health, said officials continued to monitor case and hospitalization rates and use the data to make public health decisions. There are no immediate plans to impose warrants.
Lack of government action means business owners are forced into a delicate juggling act. They try to protect customers and employees from a contagious virus while trying not to polarize anyone or take action that destroys their bottom line.
The inconsistency of policies – and their application – can also be frustrating for the public, especially for those who are still concerned that the virus will harm them or their loved ones.
Kim Bierbrauer chose the Paramount Theater in Denver for a family outing two weeks ago because the venue touted the strict application of the mask. However, when Bierbrauer, a 45-year-old cancer patient and mother of three, sat down for a comedy show, she realized she was surrounded by clients without masks.
Frustrated and worried about putting herself and her son, who is too young to be vaccinated, in danger, Bierbrauer approached an official and asked him why they had promoted a mask warrant if they didn’t have the intention to apply one. The manager, she said, explained that it was too difficult to apply.
Although a representative from the Paramount Theater did not respond to a request for comment, the theater announced on Wednesday from November 10 it will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of the event.
âIn situations where we don’t know people’s vaccination status and the little ones are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, I wish we could all share some sense of humanity and protect each other because that I would like to hope that people think that my life and my child’s life is as important as theirs, âsaid Bierbrauer. âWhen we don’t know the immunization status of people around us, I prefer to take that extra precaution of wearing a mask. “
With the onset of cold weather and the increase in hospitalizations linked to COVID-19, the owners of Bonanno Concepts thought it was only a matter of time before another new mandate or policy was put in place. Rather than trying to adapt on the fly, the owners created their own rule – vaccines for all employees and patrons of their nine restaurants in Denver.
âYou feel so helpless with COVID and sometimes you feel like there is nothing you can do. But it’s something that we can do in our little corner of the world, âsaid Jessica Kinney, director of human resources at Bonanno. “Let’s think of a few steps down the road we’ve been on before, but let’s just move on to that.”
The response, so far, has been positive, Kinney said. Only seven of the company’s nearly 400 employees have quit, and each restaurant, on average, hosts about one party a night that has no vaccine proof and leaves, she said. Still, weeks after the policy was put in place, the company recorded its best weekend in months, she said.
âWe’ve also had a lot of people because of this policy,â Kinney said.
Meanwhile, a downtown Denver nightclub owner who created a vaccination warrant has given up on checking after losing nearly half of his customers in a week.
âThe club was empty,â said Regas Christou, owner of The Church Nightclub. âThere is a lot of competition in the city, and there are no clear mandates, so other companies don’t. “
Christou, who is recovering from a COVID-19 diagnosis in September that continues to leave him breathless, said young Coloradans denounced their privacy was invaded as his doormen demanded to see a COVID test. 19 negative or proof of vaccination.
The nightclub owner wanted the state to provide clear and consistent guidelines across all businesses so that his staff did not have to control the public health crisis on their own.
âWhen the DJ encourages people to get vaccinated while filming, he gets booed,â Christou said. âIt’s hard for businesses to keep their doors open. “
At Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, vaccines are mandatory for employees, including the company dance ensemble, and for guests of shows, said Rhetta Shead, director of studio administration. But the company does travel to perform in various locations across the state, and the rules aren’t always the same in every location.
âWith everything changing on a daily basis, it’s very difficult to make sure we have the right information, the most up-to-date information,â Shead said.
When the company gave one of the first performances amid the pandemic at the Ellie Caulkins opera house in Denver, it decided to require vaccinations for the audience. It was a huge learning experience, said Shead.
“We were like a guinea pig testing how long does it take to get 500 people into a building which all need to be checked.” she said.
They have learned that they will need more people at the gates to check immunization records so the shows can start on time. For the Christmas production of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, vaccines will be needed and the company is figuring out the logistics to keep the show running smoothly.
This means the company needs to have clear instructions for ticket holders on what they need and what time they need to arrive. The company plans to offer a holiday market in the lobby so that those who arrive early have something to do while they wait for the show to start. They know they’ll need more people but haven’t decided whether they’ll use volunteers or hire a team, Shead said.
But Shead wasn’t sure that a government mask mandate would make a difference when it came to the workload on businesses.
âYou wouldn’t have the confusion of what you need to do to enter a place,â she said. “I don’t know if that would make it easier or worse for us at this point.”
Without clear direction, confusion and uncertainty continues.
As recently as last week, Dr Robert Schwartz, a geriatrician from Denver, put his season tickets for the Nuggets on sale after attending a game and found that no one at Ball Arena was enforcing the mask mandate of the place.
He spent the third quarter of the Cavaliers game discussing the spread of COVID in the arena with a guest relations person. This conversation, Schwartz said, made him realize that no one at Ball Arena intended to enforce a mask warrant.
He and his wife decided it wasn’t worth the risk. They would rather spend time with their grandchildren, who are too young to be vaccinated, rather than watching the Nuggets play basketball with COVID in the air. Additionally, he lost too many patients to the virus and was unable to participate in good faith in an event where no one seemed to care about the general well-being of the community.
âOur state is going in the wrong direction,â Schwartz said. âThe community must realize the role it plays in this regard. It’s really frustrating to see people who won’t do the minimum in a setting that could turn out to be a super spreader.
Then, a day after Schwartz posted his tickets to a resale site, Ball Arena announced that all participants would be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, starting November 10.
Schwartz withdrew his tickets from the resale site.
The doctor said he will go to a game and see if Ball Arena staff implement the new vaccine requirement and the mask warrant. If the arena officials do what they say they’re going to do, he and his wife will keep their seats.
“The question is whether they will actually apply it,” Schwartz said. âThe rules are the rules, but if you don’t apply them, they’re not real. “