Aurora to encourage but not mandate wearing masks in public; Aspen makes it mandatory

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DENVER | Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly said during a city meeting Monday he’s worried about vulnerable and immunocompromised people mingling with unmasked individuals in public in Aurora amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the disaster declaration he could, like other cities have, enact an order to wear a face mask, but he likely won’t.

Aurora City Council members were torn on making the order. So instead, the city is planning an educational campaign encouraging residents to wear masks when they leave their homes. A group of city council members also decided during the phone meeting that they would sign a letter asking Tri-County Health to make that mandate. The health agency has jurisdiction over Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

“I think encouragement falls on deaf ears,” Twombly said at one point during the conversation. But some council members worried about enforcement.

Councilman Dave Gruber said those not wanting to abide by the order may cause more trouble than it’s worth.

Councilwoman Francoise Bergan also opposed an Aurora-specific order.

“Had they (Tri-County) done it from the start or even a few weeks ago, maybe. There’s literally two weeks left. I don’t understand the logic,” she said, adding that she wears a mask to protect herself when going in public.

Councilman Juan Marcano said he was fine with the mandate and that wearing is a mask is about protecting other people, as it can limit the virus from riding a sneeze or cough farther than it would without a mask.

“Thank you, Dr. Marcano,” Bergan said sarcastically to Marcano’s comments.

Other cities across the state have made the decision to require masking.

On Monday, the Aspen City Council approved a public health order that requires face coverings inside businesses open to the public as well as outdoors whenever people cannot stay at least six feet apart. Children under 2 are exempt.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards, who works at Aspen’s City Market, said people are not wearing face coverings while they shop in the grocery store, the Aspen Daily News reported.

“It starts to feel silly that you are doing it but half of your customers aren’t,” she said.

Earlier this month, nearby Glenwood Springs mandated that face coverings be worn by people doing any essential activities outside their home. The order is set to expire Friday.

Last week, Wheat Ridge’s city manager issued an emergency order requiring anyone entering a business in the Denver suburb to wear a mask through May 30. City councilors backed the move and passed a resolution of their own requiring masks, city spokeswoman Sara Spaulding said Tuesday.

The city first took action at the urging of grocery store workers, who are required to wear masks by a state health order and wanted to be protected from customers who were not wearing masks, she said.

The moves come as the state begins to relax restrictions imposed to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus, though more restrictions remain in place in much of the Denver area. Democratic Gov. Jared Polis has insisted that the success of the fight against the virus depends on people wearing masks when they are out in public.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

In other developments:

— The Archdiocese of Denver said Tuesday that a ban on public Masses, set to expire Thursday, would be extended at least through May 8. It said it was developing guidelines to hold public Masses that would keep people safe and comply with the governor’s “safer at home” order, which limits gatherings in close quarters to 10 people or less.