Aspen to get into the mask zone to slow spread of COVID-19 |

Aspen to get into the mask zone to slow spread of COVID-19

Kirstin Klein passes masks out of Aspen City Hall to community members on Thursday, May 7, 2020.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

As Aspen City Council considers a mandatory face mask zone this week, the results of an online survey indicate that most respondents support such a move.

On the city’s online portal,, 1,055 people filled out a survey asking them about a mandatory mask zone, according to information provided by Alissa Farrell, the city’s administrative services director.

Over 69% said they support facial coverings be worn at all times, including when outdoors.

The zone location was more a mixed bag for those who filled out the survey, but the winner with 25.6% was the entire city limits, even though “I prefer no zone” received 23.5%.

The “central zone,” which the majority of council favored last week and encompasses the areas between Original/Neal Street on the east, Aspen Street on the west, Aspen Mountain to the south and the Roaring Fork River, received almost 18% support on the survey.

Council introduced the mask zone concept last week after elected officials expressed their disappointment and concern that people were not following current rules on wearing masks.

Almost half of the survey respondents said they thought the current level of compliance with the city’s current mask order is poor.

Whichever zone is selected, council members have agreed that if scientific data show that facemasks slow the spread of COVID-19 because it travels through the air, it’s worth it to keep people safe and the economy open.

The resolution that council will consider Monday night on first reading refers to the local economy and mask wearing: “failure of individuals and businesses to comply with public health guidelines can jeopardize the health of the community as a whole and could require the reinstatement of stay-at-home orders and the reclosing of all businesses, leading to devastating economic impacts.”

A zone also removes any question of what the rule is in Aspen, which makes it easier to enforce with fewer people claiming they are naive to the local public health order.

It would require wearing face masks at all times in the zone, with exceptions for age and medical condition. Also exempt are those inside a private residence or working in a professional office who do not have face-to-face interactions with the public or co-workers, as well as those while seated at a restaurant dining table. Performers, who are 25 feet away from spectators, also would be exempt.

The current local public health orders in Pitkin County and the city require that masks must be worn outdoors if a person cannot maintain more than a 6-foot distance from someone not part of their household for 10 minutes or longer.

In addition, facial coverings must be worn inside all buildings that are open to the public, except restaurants when people are sitting down at a table but they must be worn when walking around in the establishment.

Monday night’s special meeting is the first of two that council will conduct to pass an emergency ordinance; however, they are not public hearings.

Council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance Tuesday during its regular meeting, according to City Attorney Jim True.

Staff is proposing that the mandatory zone go into effect Aug. 4 and last until Aug. 25. It can be extended by council vote in the future.

Over 40% of those answering the online survey question that asked how long the zone should be in place indicated that they agree that it’s the new normal for the rest of 2020 and it should be reevaluated in December.

Other themes that came from the discussion in the online forum is that many people are concerned about enforcement and tourists not following the rules.

There were disputes on science and data; however, a majority of people want simple and clear rules on mask-wearing.

Fines for violating the public health order is $50 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and a mandatory court appearance for any subsequent offense with the penalties of as much as a $2,650 fine and one-year imprisonment or both per day for each violation.

In the online survey, 796 people said they supported signs marking the physical environment in an established zone. Over 500 respondents also support semi-permanent street pavement painting and sidewalk markings.

Depending on which zone is selected, the cost estimate is between $5,000 and $15,000 and could take between one and three weeks to implement, according to City Engineer Trish Aragon.

Glenwood Springs City Council voted last week to establish a mandatory mask zone, which takes effect July 30.

Other cities — including Breckenridge as well as Napa Valley, West Hollywood and Santa Monica, California — also have transitioned to mandatory face-covering zones to simplify what the communities’ expectations are.

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