Here’s another new normal to go along with public health orders that include safer-at-home guidelines and maintaining a six-foot distance from one another in a time of pandemic. At its Tuesday meeting, Telluride Town Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance that requires wearing a facemask in enclosed public spaces and on public transportation. The measure passed unanimously, 6-0. Council member Geneva Shaunette recused herself from the discussion and ensuing vote, telling her colleagues her company, Ghost Pocket Supply, was considering selling masks.
The lengthy discussion ended in a new ordinance that will expire June 2, unless council chooses to re-address the measure, depending on numerous factors, including how the COVID-19 pandemic scenario is playing itself out at that time.
There are a few exceptions to the order. Children 2 years of age and younger do not need to wear a mask and those with doctor’s orders showing that wearing a mask would be an impairment to one’s health are exempt. Those working in an office environment that do not deal with the public or clients and who can maintain proper distancing from office mates or clients can do so without a face covering.
“I expect a lot of pushback on the health exemption,” said Mayor DeLanie Young before casting her vote of approval.
Young said the numerous public comments received were largely in favor of putting the ordinance in place, particularly, she said, from business owners “who need additional assistance so they don’t have to be the enforcers.”
With an ordinance, rather than a public health order, there are penalties in place, should compliance be ignored or resisted, though Telluride Chief Marshal Josh Comte said his department would continue to emphasize education, rather than be quick to issue citations. The maximum penalty, should a citation be issued, is up to $1,000, which town attorney Kevin Geiger explained is standard in a municipal code.
The new code reads, in part: “As a result of the unprecedented pandemic impacts from COVID-19, some of which are currently apparent and some of which remain either unknown or the extent of the impact remains unknown, the Town Council finds and determines that an emergency ordinance requiring Face Coverings in all indoor public settings and on public transportation in the Town of Telluride is urgent, necessary, proper and is consistent with and will advance and preserve the public health, peace, safety and welfare of the Town.”
As part of his written comments to council on the ordinance, Greg Craig included an observation on social media made by a Fort Collins resident on that city’s similar ordinance.
“ … in a long debate about a potential ordinance on Facebook someone from Fort Collins posted a very interesting comment that is pertinent to our situation,” Craig wrote. “‘Having the mandate in Fort Collins has actually made things easier in Fort Collins. Just have one on or don’t come in. It’s very straightforward and everyone gets on board in no time as opposed to this ‘do whatever you decide’ wishy washy stuff that leaves room for interpretation and creates a lot more tension, not only between employees and customer but between customers themselves.’”
Another commenter, Lyn Samuelson, asked that council consider an article published in The Western Journal titled, “Mainstream media pushes masks, ignores possible consequences,” that concluded, “The media-fueled ‘if you don’t wear a mask you want to kill people’ crowd should not be dictating decisions on personal health and comfort.”
Robert Ronne also chimed in, asking council to “weigh in on all the different science.” He further stated that any law requiring him to wear a face covering “goes against my rights.”
Town manager Ross Herzog said that educating an expected influx of visitors would be a “community effort,” while Comte added that having an ordinance in place “takes the onus off businesses,” should business owners have to deal with resistant customers.
Council member Todd Brown, before casting his yes vote for the new measure, said that the temporary law would help support business owners as they ask customers to don a face covering before venturing inside.
“The goal is be communicative and explain what we’re doing,” he said.
Telluride Town Council meets every Tuesday via Zoom until further notice. For more town council news, see the Friday edition of the Daily Planet.