Encouraged but not required: Face mask decisions left to stores, customers
As the state opens back up, one vision of the new normal includes extensive mask wearing. While most government officials agree that people should wear masks in public places, neither the state nor Grand County has mandated it.
When it comes to public health orders, local governments have the option to create more restrictive guidelines than the state. That means a town, city or county can extend a stay at home order or require face coverings, as some have.
The state has not mandated the general public wear face coverings, but Gov. Jared Polis has strongly encouraged it, and workers statewide are required to wear them when interacting with the public. Aspen, Summit County and Boulder are some of the places in the state that have passed local orders requiring the public wear face coverings in certain situations.
Grocery stores in Grand County are also asking customers to wear masks, but some shoppers are doing business without the recommended face coverings.
Customers at Country Ace Hardware are required to wear masks in the store, and most people are complying with the request. If customers don’t want to wear masks, owner Amy Kaplanis said they are being asked to wait in their cars while employees fetch the items.
There have been a few incidents where customers didn’t want to wear masks, but Kaplanis said interactions have been positive for the most part. She said the argument isn’t so much about individual rights as it is making sure Ace continues to provide services.
“The bottom line is everyone has their own opinion, and that’s totally fine,” Kaplanis said. “We’re not here to get into that. What’s most important is staying open to serve our community. If we have staff who don’t feel safe coming in to work, we can’t serve our community.”
When Granby’s town manager asked trustees earlier this week about their feelings toward a town-wide policy requiring masks in public places, most were against the idea.
“There’s going to be pushback by people that do not by any circumstances want to wear a mask,” Trustee Josh Hardy said. “I know a couple people myself. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I don’t think we can be in a position where we make it mandatory. I think that’s a bit of an overreach.”
While the board of trustees generally agreed that masks should be worn into businesses, the overarching feeling was that requiring it would be too much.
Trustee Natascha O’Flaherty dissented, arguing requiring masks would allow businesses to open sooner and help protect the population.
“I would like to see a mass restriction,” O’Flaherty said. “There are people walking into these businesses saying, ‘It’s my right.’ And let me clarify this — when they walk into a private business, they do have their rights, but they’re walking onto private property.”
Even if Granby were to require the public to wear a face covering in certain places, enforcement could be another problem.
The town attorney explained that it would be possible and legal for the town to require face coverings, but there would have to be detailed enforcement guidelines and consequences for violators.
“I cannot feel good in my heart to mandate people to wear masks,” Trustee Becky Johnson said. “It would be impossible to police. We’d have to come up with someone to enforce it. Our police department has enough to do.”
With the majority of Granby’s trustees not in favor of such an order, the topic was dropped.
However, they all emphasized the importance of wearing face coverings and expressed support for any businesses that want to require masks. Trustees asked the public to respect the wishes of those businesses.
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