Colorado extends mandatory mask law to school district

For the first time, the metro area of suburban Denver — which encompasses municipalities such as Arvada, Wheat Ridge, Westminster, Arvada, Wheat Ridge, and Castle Rock — will have several jurisdictions that have enacted laws requiring mandatory masks for anyone entering, entering or leaving the building for any reason.

Two of the departments, Westminster and Arvada, have enacted the law with a narrowly tailored exemption for business, citing concerns that the laws would only affect businesses and employees requiring vaccinations for public health reasons. On April 20, the Wheat Ridge City Council voted in favor of mandating masks for all.

The measure was inspired by a recent incident at a non-medical cloth clinic, where an antiseptic cloth mask was used against patrons suspected of having the flu, and never meant for use against active and still infectious viruses. The cloth filters and covers any possible spreading.

Most of the individual measures appear to be more of a symbolic demonstration rather than making any substantive difference for individual and public health. For example, there is no automatic or explicit exemption for employees and customers requiring vaccination. In an accompanying radio advertisement, the seller said, “We still require our clients to show proof of vaccinations.” So, as NPR pointed out, this would only mean that, for an individual, a hospital, the grocery store, or another institution would still require mandatory proof of vaccination. That means a citizen who is trained to perform CPR or is a medical technician who contracted the flu, but is too ill to obtain a flu vaccine, would be required to seek exemption from an employer.

Colorado, which has a rigorous vaccine policy, and which has called for mandatory flu vaccination since 1996, is one of 28 states that allows employees to refuse vaccinations on personal, religious, or philosophical grounds.

In several cities in recent years, legislators have recognized the wide range of possible “alternative non-medical requirements” on vaccine mandate legislation.

Hennepin County, for example, prohibits exemptions for “prosperity,” a fact that did not sit well with one religious-liberty advocate, Rabbi Daniel Brodsky, who protested in a phone interview, “This is anti-business. This is anti-freedom and in fact anti-religious freedom.”

These arguments and disputes are not limited to Colorado or to the debate over who should be exempted from vaccination.

In Northern Virginia, anti-vaccination activists have sought to drive out medical doctors and medical students. In New York City, health workers and advocates have opposed a proposed ban on legal pot.

Across the country, health advocates continue to call for a culture of vaccination where those opposed to vaccination are more firmly marginalized. Such activists are demanding restrictions against injection clinics, calling for limits on exemptions for conscientious objection, and challenging a range of health-related laws on the grounds that they view them as bigots.

The Denver Anti-Vax Coalition, which favors vaccinations, published an opinion piece criticizing the funding approved for a non-medical option for immunizations. The editorial cited, “In much of the Denver metro area, parents concerned about vaccines are employed as a form of punishment for their children or by enforcing dangerous practices on other parents.”

The editorial continued, “By mandating the use of these many ‘alternative methods’ of vaccinations, local governments are assisting parents in carrying out their beliefs with a form of coercion. At worst, they’re doing it using taxpayer dollars, and that’s a downright evil act to which local governments can and should not contribute.”

The Denver Anti-Vax Coalition argues that many “medical professions and universities have put pro-vaccine positions and curricula under attack for cultural reasons.”

At least one law mandating vaccines for public health reasons has survived in the area. An attempt to overturn mandatory flu vaccination in Arvada in 2006, which passed the Arvada City Council, was overturned on a ballot initiative in 2007.

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