City of Aspen considers mandatory facemask public health order |

City of Aspen considers mandatory facemask public health order

Two friends take a stroll on Rio Grande Trail wearing masks in Aspen on Tuesday, April 21, 2020.
(Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Aspen officials are considering requiring everyone in city limits to wear a face mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

A majority of Aspen City Council members Monday voiced support for Councilman Ward Hauenstein’s suggestion that the city pass a mandatory face mask public health order, like seven other states already have.

The majority of the Glenwood Springs City Council voted earlier this month to require face masks until at least April 26. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority also this month made it mandatory for bus riders to wear face coverings.

The city of Aspen’s order would require people to wear a face mask in public where they cannot maintain a 6-foot social distance from others.

Council members said the city first has to make sure there is adequate supply and there is a way to enforce the order.

“I agree that there should be a mandatory mask order in place. … It’s not about wearing it all the time, for example if you’re hiking by yourself, and things like that, but I can’t support that mandatory mask order until we work out the details of supply,” said Mayor Torre during a work session Monday. “I’m going to support the conversation moving forward today, but I think we have some questions to get answered before we could say that a mandatory mask order should be put in place. … If we can get the supplies in town, I’m all for it.”

City Manager Sara Ott told the council the city is organizing a group of volunteers who are making masks, and municipal government employees are delivering them to essential businesses, so that they can be given to customers who don’t have one.

She said the program is in its infancy and a more direct media campaign will be begin this week.

“We’re also purchasing a couple of items to sort of make sure that there’s enough out there in circulation in the beginning, and we will be encouraging more crafters and hobbyists out there who have some spare time and want to sew to go for it,” Ott said.

Councilman Skippy Mesirow suggested that face masks could be given to law enforcement officers and they can give them to people who don’t have one and explain the public health order to them.

“It’s not about writing you a ticket for something you couldn’t help but it is about saying, ‘Hey, this is required and here’s a free mask for you, you’ll be required to wear it next time,’” he said. “I would support it where it benefits public health and we need to be ahead of the state and federal government.”

Councilwoman Rachel Richards said she feels comfortable only recommending people wear a face mask until an adequate supply is available for the masses.

Councilwoman Ann Mullins concurred, saying that as a member of the Pitkin County Board of Public Health, she agreed with last week’s decision that face masks be only a recommendation because of the enforcement challenge.

“I’m hoping that with the program that Sara outlined, that we will be able to provide masks to most people in town by having them available at essential businesses as soon as you walk in,” Mullins said. “I would support recommending wearing a mask at this point until we find that they’re available or we have some way to actually enforce.”

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