Larimer County issues public health order requiring anyone over 2 to wear masks in businesses
No mask, no service.
Larimer County's health department issued a public health order on Sunday requiring all employees and customers to wear face coverings when entering and inside businesses within the county to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The requirement isn't entirely new, as Larimer County health officials had already issued guidelines requiring masks for customers and employees at businesses reopening under safer-at-home directives. But those requirements didn't encompass essential businesses, which were already open during the stay-at-home order, and they weren't part of a formal public health order, health department spokesperson Katie O'Donnell said Sunday.
Larimer County Public Health is "hearing that people are refusing to go into businesses that require face coverings," O'Donnell wrote in an email to the Coloradoan.
"We wanted to make sure that those that were following the guidance and taking this seriously were not unfairly retaliated against," O'Donnell wrote. "We hope making it a requirement like this will help that."
The public health order applies to all employees interacting with the public or other employees as well as anyone over 2 years old entering or in line to enter a business.
Businesses are defined as, but not limited to:
- Recreational facilities
- Retail businesses
- Places of worship
- Personal service establishments
The county reiterated that those with underlying health conditions should continue to stay at home during safer-at-home due to their increased risk of contracting COVID-19.
The public health order follows Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry's emergency order requiring face coverings in Fort Collins buildings open to the public. Atteberry's order, signed Friday after it was discussed and unanimously supported by members in last week's City Council meeting, went into effect Monday.
However, the county's public health order is more stringent than Atteberry's order in some ways — Atteberry's order, for example, exempts anyone under the age of 10 years old, whereas the county's order applies to anyone over the age of 2.
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Cities and towns do have the authority to issue more strict face covering requirements than the county, according to Sunday's news release, and O'Donnell said residents should follow whichever requirements are more stringent.
"Our businesses have done a great job keeping their employees in face coverings to protect customers," Larimer County's public health director Tom Gonzales said in the release. "But we need our customers to also be protecting the employees. Face coverings are not perfect, but paired with social distancing, we know they slow the spread of COVID-19."
In a Facebook post referencing Fort Collins' mask order Monday, Fort Collins Police Services Chief Jeff Swoboda wrote that police would take an educational approach to enforcement "whenever possible" and will assist businesses that are having trouble with people refusing to follow the order.
"Our ultimate goal is compliance with this and any order designed to keep people safe," Swoboda wrote. "While enforcement is an option, education is the preferred and often effective solution. This was true during the stay-at-home order, and it remains the same as we move forward. We are relying on our residents and business owners to take face covering requirements seriously for the health of everyone in our community."
Anyone who wants to report a suspected violation should do so online via Access Fort Collins or by calling 970-416-2200. Do not call 911.
Need mask inspiration? Check out these photos:
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Sarah Kyle is a content coach at the Coloradoan. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.