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Mixed mask messages: Reception to face covering ordinances varies widely

Charlie Wertheim
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Downtown patrons walk past a closed Native Son on Wednesday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

An infringement on freedom or a simple thing to protect for the health of others?

There is a wide disparity on how people view the wearing of masks, and it’s a disparity that’s playing out in both Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, where mask ordinances are in effect.

And while some are working to rescind the Glenwood ordinance altogether, others are making it easier for people to obey the ordinance and wear a mask.

Need a mask?

The city of Glenwood Springs has purchased 10,000 disposable masks that can be given out to visitors and to local businesses in case customers don’t have one of their own. These will cost the city 29 cents apiece, Sara Weigel, executive administrative assistant for the city of Glenwood Springs, said in an email.

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Native Son

Ricky Rodriguez, owner of Native Son restaurant and bar in Glenwood, is leading an effort to rescind the mask ordinance. He is opposed to mask-wearing for several reasons.

Requiring patrons to wear masks coupled with reduced occupancy restrictions is not good for business, he said.

“It’s like right before running a marathon they cut one of your legs off and expect you to run it. That’s what they’re doing to us. … It’s destroying our economy here, destroying small businesses,” he said.

As a bartender, he said masks stifle human interaction.

“It’s taking away that intimate connection with people,” he said.

Making people wear masks is an infringement on their rights, he said.

“A big part of it is about our rights. It’s (also) our right to do what we want in our business,” he said.

He’d prefer letting customers choose.

“Give people an option to come into a place. Put up a sign saying, ‘We’re not wearing masks, it’s your right to come in or not,’” he said.

He also said it isn’t fair to police.

“(Enforcing this ordinance) is putting the police department in a very bad situation,” he said. “How can they enforce this temporary ordinance and be a positive presence with the citizens at the same time?”

Treadz

Jon Zalinski, co-owner of Treadz shoe store and Toad & Co. clothing in Glenwood Springs, said he has to be the front line for mask ordinance information.

“The only big issue I have with customers that come in is that a lot of them are coming from other places that don’t have mask ordinances and they have no idea, and we are the first people sometimes to even explain to them what our ordinance is,” he said.

It comes down to getting the information out.

“The biggest hurdle is some education, that’s about it,” he said.

Glenwood Chamber

One of the places visitors get information is from area chambers of commerce.

“On everything we print or post on our website or answer in email or answer by phone we inform people that, ‘By the way there’s a mask ordinance currently in Glenwood Springs, which means that if you enter a business you have to wear a mask, if you’re walking to a dining table you wear your mask until you get to your table, if you are going to the pool you wear your mask everywhere on the property except in the water,’” said Lisa Langer, director of tourism promotion for Visit Glenwood Springs, which is a department of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

While that helps, it doesn’t reach every visitor.

“We are telling people verbally, but people driving through have no idea,” Langer said.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is using dynamic signage to spread the message that people should “know before you go” when it comes to local health orders, but it’s still up to visitors to do the research on their own.

Carbondale Chamber

The Carbondale chamber is also giving out as much information as it can.

“On our website we have references to the task force page as well as the general messaging of what the general health orders are,” said Katie Montie, office manager for the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.

“When people are calling asking visitor questions we always make sure to let them know what the current standards are and where they can check for information. For people requesting physical info packets we’re definitely making sure to make them aware as much as possible of what our community health approach is in our county and the town,” Montie said.

Bad for business?

The mask ordinance isn’t an issue only when considering visitors. Some area residents have been expressing their displeasure on Facebook.

The group Open Silt up 100% has several posts from people saying they are refusing to shop in Glenwood Springs due to the mask ordinance. Some examples are: “Our money will be spent in GJ”: “Avoiding spending any money in Glenwood … This overreach is getting old”; and “I will not be shopping in Glenwood!!!”

Custom Body Fitness

Sandro Torres, owner of Custom Body Fitness in Glenwood, Carbondale and Basalt, is also not a fan of the mask ordinances.

Like Rodriguez, Torres considers them a violation of his rights.

“It should be a choice. … If I walk into a business and they tell me to wear a mask, I walk out,” he said.

Whether at his business or elsewhere, he said masks are a physical barrier in terms of interaction with others.

“We lose human contact. We can’t see facial expressions, we can’t tell if people are happy or angry,” he sad.

He related that one of his clients was concerned about the effects on children of seeing so many adults with masks and not being able to see their expressions.

Torres also said that it’s important to take action against the ordinances.

“If we don’t fight locally, it’s going to get worse nationally,” he said.

cwertheim@postindependent.com


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