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Glenwood Springs requires residents to wear face coverings for essential activities

Monica Mull and Kelly Williams, with LIFT-UP, wear homemade masks as they distribute food at the Garfield County Fairgrounds in Rifle. Many residents are sewing their own masks as a precaution against COVID-19.
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Glenwood Springs residents and retail workers must wear face coverings until at least April 26 for all essential activities outside of their home.

In a 6-1 vote Monday night, council directed staff to draft an order that would not only recommend wearing face coverings in public but also require them in certain settings.

Specifics of the order were announced Tuesday afternoon.

According to the public health order, face coverings must be worn “when entering and while inside of a place or conveyance open to the public.”

Gov. Jared Polis has urged Coloradans to wear face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the state does not require it.

While counties and municipalities across the state have recommended face coverings in accordance with the governor, Glenwood Springs might be the first in Colorado to require them — and possibly one of the first in the United States after the city council in Laredo, Texas passed a similar requirement March 31  and a handful of cities in Oklahoma that have also passed covering requirements.

The Glenwood Springs order states that individuals must wear face coverings “in such other public indoor or outdoor places where persons are unable to maintain safe social distancing (six or more feet of separation).”

“If you’re inside of the grocery store, you need to have the (face covering) on,” Karl Hanlon, Glenwood Springs city attorney said. “If you’re walking into the pick-up counter at a restaurant you need to have a face covering on.”

The public health order does not necessarily require people to wear face coverings every time they leave their home.

Instead, the order requires a face covering when individuals go to a public place where people cannot maintain safe social distancing.

“I think there is a little bit of reasonableness and common sense that comes into play,” Hanlon said.

The order does not require face coverings for people younger than 2 or if it would cause impairment due to an existing health condition.

The order also exempts individuals “in a professional office who do not have any face-to-face interactions with the public” 

Face coverings may include bandanas, scarves and other clothing without visible holes and must cover a person’s nose and mouth.

“There’s a reason that the governor’s order for the recommendation on face coverings does not say masks and that’s because we have a shortage of masks and (personal protective equipment),” Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup said at a special city council meeting Monday. “We do not want people going out and putting strain on that limited supply.”

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, especially where social distancing proves challenging like in grocery stores and pharmacies.

The CDC was clear in recommending cloth face coverings, not surgical masks or N-95 respirators to protect supplies for healthcare workers and first responders.

“Do I feel like it’s important to have a face mask on if I’m walking down the Rio Grande Trail and nobody’s there? No,” Councilman Steve Davis said. “I think the intent, in my mind, would be when you’re in those public spaces where you cannot really control the distancing.”

Mayor Jonathan Godes, Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup as well as councilors Steve Davis, Paula Stepp and Charlie Willman supported requiring residents to wear face coverings.

Councilor Tony Hershey did not.

“As a more conservative person, I can’t support micromanaging people’s lives,” Hershey said. “To some extent we have to legislate… but this is a city council, we should do it in cooperation with the county government and with the state government and, yes, with the federal government.”

Hershey also questioned how the requirement would be enforced.

Failure to comply with the city’s public health order may result in a fine of up to $1,000 or 364 days in jail. City officials have said the intent of the order is not to write fines.

“We’re going to ask people to use their common sense and we’re going to ask them to comply,” Councilor Rick Voorhees said. “We’re not going to be out writing tickets, but, you know, I think it’s leadership that we’re talking about here and this council has the moral authority to ask people in Glenwood to comply.”

mabennett@postindependent.com


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