PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- On December 7th, Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar sent a letter to the Pueblo Department of Health and Environment and other city officials, requesting a county-wide mask mandate be put in place. The Board of Health denied that request by choosing not to hold a formal vote on the request.
"Unfortunately, when I sent the letter out everyone could see who was on the list and some people got on the phone and started lobbying against it, so it didn't give us a true flavor of would there be support for that or not," Mayor Gradisar said.
Gradisar cited Pueblo hospitals being at capacity as the need for the mitigation requirement. Both Parkview Medical Center and St. Mary Corwin Hospital were over 90% capacity with COVID-19 patients. In early December, the delta variant was the prominent COVID variant in Pueblo.
"Our hospitals were overwhelmed. I mean they were at capacity, so that was sort of the triggering factor for me in saying we ought to take a look at doing something," Gradisar said.
Now, the omicron variant is the dominant variant in Pueblo County. Gradisar told KRDO he still supports a county-wide mask mandate with research showing the omicron variant is more transmissible than delta variant, but less deadly.
According to Pueblo Health, the percent positivity rate per 100,000 people is 18% today. For context, that number was near 9% when Gradisar's letter was sent.
"We are already hearing from several government employers and hospitals that they are starting to see absenteeism due to sickness and thats what we are expecting to see as much as out hospitals go up," Health Director, Randy Evetts, said.
Moving forward, the health department says they will have much to consider before instituting any further mitigation requirements for the people of Pueblo.
"With any mandate there is always a consideration about resources to put it in place, resources to manage it, resources to enforce it," Evetts said. "Another part of the discussion is about community will to follow such an order and the impact that those kind of orders could have on other activities such as schools or businesses."
According to Gradisar, the Pueblo Board of Health never voted on his proposal. Instead, they opted to have an internal discussion about it and decided against his request.
In the December letter, Gradisar excluded the vaccinated population from his mask mandate request. With the mask discussion off the table, limiting indoor activities is not.
"If we are going to have large events, limit it to people that are vaccinated. Thats certainly safer but you know one alternative is say for the next sixty days we won't have large concerts. We won't have large meetings indoors," Gradisar said.
Evetts wants to remind the public that the omicron variant's impact is serious in the Pueblo community. He urges people to get vaccinated if you haven't, and get a booster shot if you are five to six months removed from your initial shot.
No vote on a county-wide mask mandate is expected at the Board of Healths next meeting on January 26th. The removal of masks for all Pueblo schools is expected to be discussed.