PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- Pueblo's mayor is calling on the Pueblo County Board of Health to issue an indoor mask order throughout Pueblo County. The call to action comes with continuing concerns about hospital capacity in the Steel City.
“We are sending patients away from Pueblo," said Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar. "Some of them we have to send to La Junta because there isn’t a hospital bed.”
The mayor tells 13 Investigates hospital capacity issues are making a mask mandate necessary.
According to data from Pueblo's Department of Public Health and Environment, Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo has been operating at 90% capacity since the week of September 5. Meanwhile, Pueblo's St. Mary Corwin Medical Center first reported being at 90% capacity the week of September 26 and has been operating above that level ever since.
This week, Gradisar drafted a letter requesting that "the Board of Health enter an order requiring masks be worn indoors in all public places unless the indoor activity is limited to persons who have been vaccinated against COVID-19."
Gradisar plans to send the letter to Pueblo's Board of Health on Wednesday. The letter requests the mask order to remain in place through January 31, unless the board chooses to extend or terminate the order earlier.
“I think we need to be careful," said Gradisar. "We are acting like this is all over with and it’s not. Other counties in Colorado on the front range, heavily populated counties, have entered these kinds of mask orders through January. I don’t see why we can’t be as careful as we can be.”
In recent weeks, COVID-19 case numbers have dropped off in Pueblo County -- 1,004 COVID cases were reported in Pueblo during the week of November 7. That number dropped to 502 two weeks later.
Pueblo Health officials tell 13 Investigates those numbers don't factor in the potential increase in COVID-19 cases from the Thanksgiving holiday.
Gradisar sent the letter to community leaders, asking them to sign off on the letter and its message before it is sent to Pueblo's Board of Health. Some gave the mayor their support.
A spokesperson for Parkview Medical Center says the hospital's leadership signed the mayor's letter. The same spokesperson tells 13 Investigates they believe a mask order is the right thing to do given the current COVID-19 admissions at the hospital.
However, the mayor says others have declined to sign off on the letter.
“Some people don’t want to make anybody mad, and they view this as, 'Why should we make anybody mad?'" said Gradisar. "People are dying. That’s why need to take some kind of action in my judgment.”
13 Investigates asked if Mayor Gradisar could issue a mask order for the entire city of Pueblo right now. He says he is able to issue a mask order for city-owned buildings, which is already in place. However, the mayor says he is unable to issue a public health order for privately owned buildings, only the Board of Health is capable of that.
However, Pueblo Health Director Randy Evetts tells 13 Investigates municipalities can issue a mandate like the ones in Denver and Manitou Springs.
Donald Moore, the President of Pueblo's Board of Health, says they will discuss the letter and mask requirements with the Mayor at a Board of Health work session on Friday. However, the earliest they can vote on the issue is during their next regular meeting on December 22, unless the Board of Health chooses to initiate a special meeting.