Tri-County won't make masks mandatory

Board of health supports voluntary face coverings

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/6/20

Tri-County Health Department won't be joining the Colorado cities requiring that people wear masks when they go out in public, the board of health agreed May 6. Members of the board of health for …

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Tri-County won't make masks mandatory

Board of health supports voluntary face coverings

Posted

Tri-County Health Department won't be joining the Colorado cities requiring that people wear masks when they go out in public, the board of health agreed May 6.

Members of the board of health for Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties discussed the pending end to their stay-at-home order as well as the transition to the less-strict, safer-at-home designation during a video meeting via Zoom May 6.

Tri-County Executive Director John Douglas said people are encouraged to wear cloth face coverings to help cut down on COVID-19's spread. It's accepted, plausible science that masks work, Douglas said, but it has not been proven.

However, he noted that public health orders have become politicized.

“It could lead some people who might be inclined to use them not to do so because of, if you will, just frustration and defiance about another public health order,” he said.

He said local governments do not have a clear way to enforce a requirement to wear masks in public.

“Our first line of defense would almost certainly be the store manager,” he said. “It would be sort of a 'no shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service idea.' But we would need some support from other levels of government.”

Douglas said the goal of a mask order would be to get 75% compliance, on average.

However, each county in the Tri-County area is already above that, based on a Tri-County survey of 48 stores in recent weeks. That survey — Tri-County employees simply counting people in different stores and noting who either wore or did not wear a mask — counted 3,000 people and found that 77% wore a mask. The rate was higher in Adams County, which found people wearing masks 84% of the time. The rate was 75% in Douglas County and 74% in Arapahoe County.

“I must say that given these findings, and the uncertainty as to how much better than 75 percent we could get with an arguably hard to enforce public order, we were left with the conclusion that it would make sense to proceed by enhancing public education and social marketing efforts,” Douglas said.

Tri-County Health Strategic Communications Manager Becky O'Guin said they would target areas with social media and internet marketing to help encourage people to wear masks, and Douglas noted they'd do more testing to make sure the rate of people wearing the masks does not slip.

“If we get more complaints, and more observation data suggests that Boulder is having much better success than we are, that could show the voluntary approach is not working,” Douglas said.

Denver, Boulder and Wheat Ridge have all made masks mandatory for anyone out in the public, although Douglas said he understands that Jefferson and Broomfield counties do not make masks mandatory.

Board members agreed unanimously, voting in an informal straw poll not to make masks required.

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