Boulder County on Monday announced it is indefinitely extending the public health order requiring face masks be worn in public, and public health officials urged residents to comply as a gesture of caring about their community.
The announcement of the extension, which does not have an expiration date, came just a day before the order was set to lapse.
The public health order requires face coverings be worn by anyone older than 12 anywhere in the county when they are in public and 6 feet of social distance cannot be maintained.
“We know it’s unpleasant to wear a face covering. None of us are excited to wear them. But it’s a small inconvenience that can save lives and our economy,” Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health executive director, stated in a news release. “Wearing face coverings in public is not a political statement; it’s an important tool in our toolbox to help slow the spread of this disease. If we can slow the spread, we’ll be able to enter the Protect Your Neighbor phase, which will allow us to further reopen our economy.”
The Protect Our Neighbors phase is the next level of loosened statewide coronavirus restrictions, which if certain requirements are met, allows for the further reopening of businesses and facilities at 50% capacity and the resumption of larger gatherings. Factors involved in the phase include communities’ ability to treat patients, handle a surge in need for intensive hospital care, and to conduct testing, effective case investigation and contact tracing.
As of Monday afternoon, there were 1,365 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Boulder County and 517 in Longmont, according to data published on the county website.
Zayach in the news release urged people to voluntarily comply with the face mask order, particularly since neither the county health department nor local law enforcement agencies have adequate resources to respond to reports of individuals not doing so.
“We know that some people are choosing not to wear face coverings despite being required by law. This is disappointing and leaves it up to the rest of us to be responsible for ourselves, our loved ones, those who could die from the disease, and the survival of our economy,” he stated. “Let’s show the state and country that the people of Boulder County care about their community.”
Boulder County Public Health asked residents to set an example by wearing face coverings to help normalize the behavior, “which makes it more acceptable for others to adopt.” The health department is further asking people to move away from others who are not wearing face coverings if they come closer than 6 feet: “This sends a message that you care about their health and safety.”
Face masks in Longmont, or the lack thereof, have been a topic of concern among Leader readers and on Twitter of late. One reader emailed complaining about masks not being worn in a local grocery store, and another emailed expressing frustration that masks were not being worn in locations around town.
On Twitter, people have commented on their dismay about the absence of face coverings.
“I am so disappointed in the people of #Longmont. Went down to Main Street this afternoon and 70% plus were without a mask. Saw four people with masks but not over their noses,” one individual tweeted. Another tweeted, “Longmont and area north are kinda relaxing. A few weeks ago, high percentage masked and distanced. Now seeing more folks no mask and a few (businesses with) employees not masked. Growing alarmed at the emerging attitude.”
Face coverings, such as cloth masks, prevent large droplets of respiratory particles from being expelled into the air, which may contain virus particles if a person is infected, according to Boulder County Public Health. “Once the virus is exhaled, it cannot be re-inhaled or worsen the person’s infection. Facial coverings can reduce the spread of droplets from the wearer to others; they do not necessarily protect the wearer from others.”
Other requests and guidance from Boulder County Public Health include:
Always stay at least 6 feet from others you don’t live with or with whom you haven’t agreed to have close contact: “This is as important as wearing a face covering.”
People should focus on their sphere of influence rather than strangers, and to request those people you see often, such as co-workers, take precautions.
Consider the risk and benefit of activities and choose those that are less likely to spread disease: “In general, coronavirus spreads best within a closed area, in close proximity for more than 10 minutes. While not entirely risk-free, briefly passing someone outdoors is less likely to spread the virus.”
Exceptions to the countywide public health order requiring face masks include people working alone in an office, those whose health would be negatively impacted by wearing a face covering (including mental health impacts), and children 12 and younger. First responders also are exempt under certain circumstances but are required by the state to wear face coverings.
Masks also are recommended, but not mandated for children ages 3 to 12, and if worn should be done so with parental supervision. The county advised masks should not be worn by kids younger than 3 because of suffocation risks.In addition, the statewide Safer at Home order requires face coverings for some personal services, such as getting a haircut.