Aspen extends face mask law through mid-June

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

Aspen City Council on Tuesday extended its mandatory face covering public health order to June 17 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community as restaurants and lodges are opening at limited capacity this week.

Council first passed the mask law on April 27, which was effective for 30 days and was set to expire Wednesday.

“I want the public to know that these are not decisions that we take lightly,” Mayor Torre said. “We understand about individual choice and this is a choice for the health of the community and this council supports that as priority No. 1.”

Council members said during their regular meeting Tuesday that wearing facial coverings is key to sending a message that Aspen is a safe place to be as it reopens the tourism economy.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards said wearing facial coverings has become politicized on a national level, and there is a dystopia of information and direction that has left a lot of people confused.

Aspen is signaling to its residents and its guests that wearing a face mask or covering is one key part to Pitkin County’s public health order that specifically asks people to commit to five elements of containing the virus, which is spread through people’s mouths and droplets lingering in the air.

“I think we need to be very straightforward and firm that this is the best way to contain this, this is the best way to open safely, this is the best way to regain our economy and our jobs,” Richards said. “It’s not too much to ask.”

She added that if Aspen and the county want to be known as the “gold standard” of COVID-19 safety, then they have to talk the talk and walk the walk — with masks on.

“How do we make citizens’ participation and visitors’ participation that you are part of upholding the gold standard, you are what make us safe and we are all on the same team?” Richards asked rhetorically. “If I’m inviting guests to come to our community and telling them it’s safe to be here please participate as we do in keeping each other safe.

“I think wearing a face covering and a mask is a big part of that.”

The council amended its resolution mandating face coverings to mirror the county’s public health order, which is that they 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.

Facial coverings must be worn inside all buildings that are open to the public, according to the city and county’s public health orders.

The amended resolution also reflects the county’s rule in that when a person enters a restaurant he or she must wear a face covering, but once seated at a table they do not.

Council chose June 17 as the expiration date of the public health order knowing that the state’s facial covering guidance ends June 14. Council is scheduled to meet June 16 and can extend its order then, or let it expire the following day.

Aspen was the second municipality behind Glenwood Springs to put a face covering public health order into effect last month.

Within weeks, Carbondale, Basalt and Snowmass Village followed suit.

The Basalt Town Council on Tuesday extended its requirement that people wear face coverings while in indoor spaces of businesses that are accessible to the public. It will review the requirement again June 23.

At the same time the city of Aspen passed the face covering law in April, the municipal government started a mask-producing effort.

Since then, the city has spent roughly $26,500 for personal protective equipment of 10,000 disposable masks, plus 2,000 buffs.

The city is approaching enforcement through education and warnings. If further enforcement is needed, a fine structure is in place.

Not wearing a face covering is subject to a $50 fine for the first offense, $250 for the second and a mandatory court appearance for any subsequent offense and a fine of as much as $2,650.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that masks should fit snugly against the side of the face, are secured with ties or ear loops, and include multiple layers of fabric.

The city’s new law includes ski buffs, which are similar to neck gaiters.

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