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As Larimer County businesses prepare to reopen, rules for masks clash

Kevin Duggan
Fort Collins Coloradoan
Published 6:52 PM EDT Apr 27, 2020
A UPS worker wears a mask and gloves as he makes his deliveries in Old Town as companies respond to the coronavirus pandemic in Fort Collins, Colo. on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.
Bethany Baker / The Coloradoan

Confusion over where and when to wear protective face masks meant to combat the spread of the coronavirus continues to confound residents and businesses alike.

When the guidelines for masks from state and county officials don’t match, here’s a simple rule of thumb: When in doubt, wear a mask.

As “nonessential” businesses in Larimer County that have been closed for weeks gradually reopen, employees and customers will be required to wear masks and follow social-distancing guidelines, according to rules set by the health department.

People must keep at least 6 feet apart; no more than 10 people will be allowed inside a business, including large spas and salons.

This does not apply to customers picking up a delivery curbside at a business, a practice that was allowed to start Monday.

FAQs: Transitioning from stay at home to safer at home

Beginning Friday, when some businesses are allowed to open their doors, customers who show up to a business with the intention of entering but don’t have a mask should be turned away, said Katie O’Donnell, spokesperson for the county health department.

However, that restriction might not apply to businesses that would have a problem with people wearing masks, such as banks. Some exceptions will likely come into play as reopening continues in phases, O’Donnell said.

“I feel like there’s going to be one-offs, and we’re working with our business community on what they need and how we can help them be creative to meet face-covering requirements and the social-distancing requirements as they start opening up,” she said.

The state’s rules for masks issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Gov. Jared Polis have varied in recent weeks.

Current state requirements call for business workers to wear masks. Customers are not required to have masks unless social distancing can’t be maintained, such as in a hair salon.

“The salons are saying if you’re not wearing a tie behind your hair, you should be able to mask on your ears the whole time,” she said. “It will be interesting to navigate.”

COVID-19: A look at daily life in Fort Collins

State officials advise everyone to wear a mask when in public. However, the purpose of a mask is to protect others when in a group of people.

If you’re at a trailhead or other location where others are present, wear a mask, O’Donnell said. But if you’re not around others when walking or riding a bike, you don’t have to wear a mask.

Enforcement of the rules for businesses will be complaint-based, O’Donnell said. Businesses are asked to fill out checklists from the county ensure they follow best practices.

Businesses that must remain closed until further notice include dine-in operations at restaurants, bars, brewery taprooms, cigar bars, theaters, casinos and gymnasiums. Personal training allowed outdoors if four or fewer people are in the class.

Kevin Duggan is a senior columnist and reporter. Contact him at Support his work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This content was originally published here.