Northglenn joined the list of cities requiring residents to wear masks or face coverings to help slow COVID-19's spread, councilors said May 18. “We are making a very clear statement that we, as …
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Northglenn joined the list of cities requiring residents to wear masks or face coverings to help slow COVID-19's spread, councilors said May 18.
“We are making a very clear statement that we, as leaders of the city, are very supportive of the use of face masks,” Councilor Julie Duran Mullica said. “We recommend that everybody is using a face mask, which is the right thing to do.”
City Councilors voted 7-1 to adopt the requirement to wear facial coverings during their regularly scheduled virtual meeting. The meeting was shown live on Northglenn's cable channel 8 and streamed live on YouTube.
Councilors approved the directive, stopping short of calling it an order.
“The city's resolution that's on the agenda is a directive,” City Attorney Corey Hoffman said. “It is a strong recommendation.”
A growing list of cities is requiring masks in public, including Denver, Wheat Ridge and Westminster.
The Northglenn directive requires those three-years-old or older to cover their mouth and nose with a cloth covering when in a Northglenn business or government building, waiting to enter them or when they are outside but unable to keep socially distant from others.
The directive does make allowances for those not medically able to wear a mask and includes a list of exceptions, including workers that do not have contact with the public and don't share a workplace with others, those getting medical or dental treatments requiring access to the mouth or nose, customers in financial institutions or pawn shops and those eating and drinking in restaurants. Restaurant-goers must keep their mask on while entering the restaurant, ordering, paying and interacting with restaurant staff, however.
Mayor Meredith Leighty said she's received several emails from residents asking for this kind of order.
“It's really important for those essential workers that show up to work every day,” Leighty said. “They don't want to get sick and then return home, to possibly, to their elderly parents or grandparents. So, some of what is really powerful for me is those individual stories.”
The directive does not include any language about enforcement or penalties.
That didn't sit well with Councilor Ashley Witkovich, who cast the lone vote against the directive.
“You say enforcement will be education, but what will that look like?” she said. “If a business is struggling with somebody not wearing a mask? Do they call the police? Do the police come out and educate? How would it work, exactly?”
Hoffman said enforcing the directive will be up to the businesses, who can establish a policy similar to the standard “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service,” policies.
“A private business can ask someone to leave and if they refuse, it's a trespass,” he said. “Although that's not a violation of a mask order directly, a private business that wants to have a mandatory mask order can do so.”
Councilor Antonio Esquibel suggested the city create signs for businesses, but Hoffman argued against that.
“I don't think the city should be providing signs that require it, because that is contrary to his resolution,” Hoffman said. “The city can provide signs saying masks are a strong recommendation but if a business wants to say 'No Mask, No Service,' that's probably something they should do on their own.”
And Mullica said adding enforcement provisions could work against the city.
“Once you start putting in an enforcement mechanism for face masks, unfortunately you fall into this black hole of enforcement,” Mullica said. “You are chasing people and people are upset.”
Leighty was concerned that residents would not know about the order. Geyer said a note will be included in the city's monthly newsletter, posted to the web and a press release would be sent out.
Leighty said she wants to make sure the word gets out.
“It is very timely, it is very newsworthy because a lot of cities around us are choosing to do this,” she said. “Having Denver do this, as a huge metro city, is a big deal. We have businesses that are asking for help and even if it's not enforceable — you are not going to get a ticket and a cop is not going to arrest you — that's not an issue. Most people are going to take this directive very seriously. It's going to be the rule and they will want to follow it.”
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