Masks in Denver: How the latest rules will work

You’ll have to wear face coverings while visiting businesses but won’t be required to use them while doing things like running or walking.

Martha Jamieson, owner of La Fiesta flower shop and piñataria, prepares a vase in her Federal Boulevard shop. April 22, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Martha Jamieson, owner of La Fiesta flower shop and piñataria, prepares a vase in her Federal Boulevard shop. April 22, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Believe it or not, it’s been a month since Gov. Jared Polis donned a face mask and encouraged Coloradans to start wearing them while out and about.

Now, cities like Denver are codifying the practice. Starting Wednesday, Denver residents and people working or visiting the city will need to wear face coverings while out in public. Unlike most COVID-19 orders that had an end date, this rule will last until further notice.

Here’s what the new face mask rule means for you. 

You will need to wear a face covering — whether an actual face mask or any fabric like a bandanna or other soft, permeable material — while out in certain spaces. It must cover your nose and mouth at all times.

City spokesperson Heather Burke said in an email you won’t be required use a face covering while you’re recreating outdoors, whether walking, hiking, running or cycling. But you might want to consider wearing one.

“Unless you are in a situation where it is required, it is still encouraged to wear a face covering while out in public, especially during any activity when you are within six feet of another person,” Burke wrote.

Some other requirements:

  • Face masks must be worn inside or in line to enter retail or commercial businesses.
  • Employees, contractors, owners and volunteers working in retail and commercial businesses must wear them. This includes places like reception areas, grocery stores, public restrooms and cashier and checkout areas. People working in spaces where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution must wear them.
  • They must be worn while visiting health care services, including local hospitals, clinics, walk-in facilities, behavioral health providers and facilities providing veterinary care.
  • They must be worn while waiting in line for and riding on public transit, including RTD buses and light rail, or using a taxi, private care services or ride-sharing service like Uber. Drivers or operators providing these services must wear face masks.
  • All workers, visitors and passengers at Denver International Airport will be required to wear face coverings. The face coverings should be worn even through TSA.

The city is encouraging businesses to post signs asking customers to wear face coverings. Mayor Michael Hancock said during a press conference on Tuesday he hopes people see the order as a social responsibility moving forward.

“I strongly recommend wearing one when you’re out and about,” Hancock said. “I want you to look at this way, when I see people wearing face masks, I recognize they’re working and doing everything they can to protect me.”

Some other things to keep in mind:

  • You don’t need to wear a face mask if you’re driving alone or with someone in your family in your car.
  • You can be exempt if you have a medical condition that wouldn’t allow you to safely wear a face covering.
  • You don’t need to wear a face mask if you’re working in a single room or personal space in an office as long as someone isn’t regularly visiting the room and social distancing is practiced (meaning you’re six feet or further from other coworkers).
  • Children who are three years and older will need to wear face coverings.

What happens if you don’t wear a mask?

Violating the order could result in a civil citation, or a ticket, worth up to $999 per violation.

Burke said that multiple city agencies will be involved in enforcement.

“People will need to take the face covering order seriously, as they did with the stay at home order,” Burke said in an email.

City Attorney Kristin Bronson said on Tuesday businesses can also be cited if they’re not taking “reasonable steps” to ensure mask covering is practiced. Hancock said the order is not about strict caution and enforcement, but he said citations may be handed out to people who ignore the order.

“We expect businesses to make a good faith effort to get those that come into their stores to comply,” Bronson said. “We also expect customers to make a good faith effort to comply.”

Why is the city requiring masks?

In short, to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Vasi Reiva, a Denver Division of Public Safety cadet, helps set up a library inside the makeshift shelter for unhoused men at the National Western Center. April 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Vasi Reiva, a Denver Division of Public Safety cadet, helps set up a library inside the makeshift shelter for unhoused men at the National Western Center. April 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Wearing a face mask can help both the wearer and the people around them since they catch saliva, which is one way COVID-19 can transmit between people. People can be asymptomatic but contagious, while those with mild symptoms can also infect others.

The city believes that face masks, keeping six feet away from others and frequent hand-washing greatly reduces the risk of transmitting the coronavirus. This guidance comes from state and federal agencies.

The face mask rule comes as the city’s stay-at-home order is set to expire after Friday.

This story has been updated with additional comments.

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