Glenwood council establishes mandatory mask zone downtown

A vendor helps a customer at one of the produce stands during a downtown market this summer in Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

City Council voted Wednesday night to establish a mandatory mask zone downtown.

At the suggestion of Councilor Charlie Willman, the zone would be the same as the current smoke-free area, from Fifth Street north of the Hotel Colorado all the way south to 11th Street, and generally extending for a couple of blocks either side of Grand Avenue.

“My view is if you’re going to do it you do it in the same zone as our tobacco[-free zone], which has got north Glenwood and all that area. This is not rocket science. That’s the area we’ve identified as being a critical area in town,” Willman said.

A map of the mandatory face covering zone in Glenwood Springs. Courtesy city of Glenwood Springs

Willman, however, joined Paula Stepp in opposing the motion, brought by Mayor Jonathan Godes and seconded by Tony Hershey. Councilor Steve Davis was not in attendance.

The zone would take effect on July 30 and be reviewed later next month.

“It will expire the second meeting in August unless renewed,” Godes said. 

Council was advised that there will likely be objections to the mask zone.

“This wasn’t noticed. Is it OK to do this under the COVID notice that we have?” Councilor Shelley Kaup asked.

“You’re going to get challenged on it no matter what you do. … You certainly have the authority under state statute to implement it if you want to. … I’m actually OK with you guys taking action. … I don’t see a legal risk,” Hanlon said.

Council also agree to hire private security in the downtown area from 5-10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. City manager Debra Figueroa said she doesn’t need council’s OK to hire security but wanted to see if council was generally in favor of the idea before moving forward. 

“It is budgeted, and it is in my spending authority,” Figueroa said.

Figueroa said it would be best to get security hired right away and tweak hours later if necessary.

“I don’t want to wait until August if the majority of you want it,” she said.

In the discussion about the city’s response to rising COVID cases, Councilor Rick Voorhees said that residents are mostly in favor of the city’s mask order.

“It’s 10–14% — depending on which polls you read — of people who are actively opposed to this. I think we have a mandate from our voters in Glenwood based on our last public meeting that this is what they want,” Voorhees said.

Hershey said people are still getting used to the idea of wearing face coverings.

“I think it’s a little like seatbelts. Seatbelts weren’t accepted for a long time. People understand now they’re the safest thing to do. Everyone should wear a mask, obviously, and that is the safe thing to do. … The governor has made good decisions regarding masks, and everyone should do what they’re supposed to do,” Hershey said.

Glenwood’s police chief said that while mask compliance can’t be officers’ priority, so far contacts regarding masks have been positive.

“We have to prioritize our calls for service. … A lot of times officers are unavailable to handle these types of calls. … When we do have the occasion to contact somebody about their mask our experience has been that everybody has been compliant,” Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras said. 

Voorhees suggested seeing what businesses think of a mask zone.

“It might be a providential thing … to survey some of the businesses there to see what their thoughts were about making downtown an all-mask, all-the-time zone. … It may make them feel safer,” Voorhees said.

Godes disagreed.

“I hesitate to do a survey every time we want to do something to protect public health,” Godes said.

At the end of a presentation on Glenwood Springs COVID numbers, Garfield County Public Health’s Mason Hohstadt mentioned that Mesa County has been rating businesses on their COVID compliance.

“I like the idea of Mesa County rating businesses. … This outside grading system may allow the community to see who’s following whatever measures we put in place,” Stepp said.

Figueroa was less enthusiastic.

“We would get you guys into all sorts of trouble if staff tried to grade businesses,” Figueroa said.

The rating system idea lost traction among council members and was dropped.

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