Colorado Springs

On Monday, America blew past 6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. Over 183,000 have died, almost 2,000 of them in Colorado. The scientists at John’s Hopkins University are tallying the carnage for us.

In July, an editorial by three scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They said: “At this critical juncture when COVID-19 is resurging, broad adoption of cloth face coverings is a civic duty, a small sacrifice reliant on a highly effective low-tech solution that can help turn the tide favorably in national and global efforts against COVID-19.”

So... COVID deadly. Masks good. Got it.

But on Aug. 26, conservative House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and local fringe-dweller Michelle Malkin filed a lawsuit with the Colorado Supreme Court, seeking to overturn Gov. Polis’ mask mandate. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, but Neville and Malkin have pledged to take the case to a lower court or the federal court system if the state Supreme Court declined. Their claim: In issuing the executive order mandating mask-wearing that took effect July 17, Jared Polis overstepped his authority under the Colorado Disaster Emergency Act in an assault on the separation of powers established in Colorado’s Constitution.

Some found it odd that the pair waited more than a month after the mandate was in place to raise the issue, especially since it seems to have helped — the state’s case numbers have generally trended downward as more people have worn masks.

Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have mask mandates. Most of the states that don’t are led by Republican governors.

Conservatives have brought similar legal challenges in other Democrat-led states, including Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

One wonders why conservatives, usually so very pro-business, are spending energy (and scarce public tax dollars) on these mask-mandate challenges when the economy is on its knees and the business community has encouraged governors to issue mask mandates.

From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “Masks have proven to be effective in minimizing the spread of COVID-19, and yet the recent debate and politicization of mask-wearing continue to threaten the reopening of our economy.”

And in a letter from the Retail Industry Leaders Association to the National Governors Association: “We urge every governor to require consumers who are not encumbered by a medical condition to wear masks when shopping or in public spaces.”

Even here in Malkin’s hometown, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, Downtown Partnership and Visit Colorado Springs have supported mask-wearing to help restart the local economy. 

Their partisan legal challenge seems even more peculiar given that so many Republicans are already wearing masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In an August Pew Research Center survey, 76 percent of Republican respondents said they had worn a mask in stores or other businesses “most of the time.” That’s up from 53 percent in June.

So we’re left to riddle out the true motives behind the Neville/Malkin lawsuit. Because it’s clearly not about saving lives. Or preventing another lockdown. It’s not about helping Colorado’s small businesses thrive during the pandemic, or supporting our state’s role in regrowing the national economy.

What we’re left with is political gamesmanship and the need to remain visible and relevant in a state where Democrats control both houses of the legislature and hold all state elected offices. Democrat Jared Polis issued the mask mandate, and Neville and Malkin object. Strenuously. Loudly. And likely fruitlessly.

Their actions show a happy willingness to waste tax dollars on a silly lawsuit when the state scarcely has two nickels to rub together. And when there are lives at risk.

Theirs is a dangerous game indeed.