Boulder Mandates Indoor Masks Once COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Restrictions Are Lifted

Boulder is expected to ease stay-at-home restrictions on May 9th, but the use of face coverings will be required inside local businesses.  KGNU’s Roz Brown says Boulder City Council approved the emergency ordinance last night with the support of local health officials trying to control the spread of COVID-19.

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Boulder was one of several Front Range communities that extended its stay-at-home order until May 9, after the Governor eased restrictions for the state on April 26. Boulder County Public Health Director Jeff Zayach said the county had 531 cases as of Tuesday; is averaging 14 new cases every day; with a total of 34 deaths – most of those associated with long-term healthcare facilities.

Zayach told Boulder City Council his department has received both angry and grateful calls from residents about the extension of restrictions. He says local hospitalizations remain relatively flat, but there’s one big milestone Boulder County needs to reach before restrictions are lifted.

“Our capacity really needs to be around 500 tests per day in order for us to go forward and feel comfortable we have the ability to find those cases and control them,” said Zayach. “We are, however, only completing around 100 tests per day.”

Zayach said the ability to test for COVID-19 is improving and will be expanded in the weeks ahead. He said Boulder County may require that face coverings be worn inside businesses after May 9, but a decision is a few days off. Meanwhile, Boulder councilmembers passed an emergency ordinance to that effect last night, with Councilman Bob Yates asking for Zayach’s support.

“Would you object if the city put an indoor masking order in place this week, ahead of the county?” Yates asked. “No, I would support that,” said Zayach.

The measure, approved by council will require customers and clients of businesses to cover their mouths and noses in workplaces and spaces of “public accommodation” with a mask or other face covering such as a bandana. There was also discussion as to whether those hiking open space trails should be required to wear masks. Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam recommended against it. She said park rangers are already having a tough time on the trails.

“Our rangers have been experiencing quite a bit of negative behavior, from people not following social-distancing rules, and others harassing the rangers for not making those in violation follow the rules,” said Brautigam. “So it’s been a very difficult time for rangers and we don’t need their work to be more difficult, so we’re asking that trails not be included in the mask ordinance at this time.”

Brautigam said there is signage at trailheads encouraging masks, along with the directive to stay six-feet apart. Dan Burke, Director of Open Space and Mountain Parks added that compliance has improved.

“On weekdays we’re getting about 80 percent compliance,” said Burke. “On weekends it’s 60 percent because we get a lot of visitors who may not know the rules. When it comes to face-coverings, we’re well below social-distancing compliance.”

There was not sufficient support last night to mandate masks on open space trails, with Mayor Sam Weaver noting that transmission of the virus is much higher indoors than outdoors.