Summit County’s facial covering mandate draws broad acceptance, some objections |

Summit County’s facial covering mandate draws broad acceptance, some objections

Jonnah Glassman and other volunteers wear masks as they assist with food bank deliveries at Summit Middle School on April 28.
Liz Copan /

FRISCO — Life has drastically changed for most Americans over the past two months. In Summit County and other communities across the nation, mandatory face covering requirements have become one more part of daily living during the age of COVID-19.

Summit County now requires members of the public to wear facial coverings or masks while inside publicly accessible buildings as well as during any other situation indoors or outdoors where 6 feet of separation from other individuals could not be maintained.

The move already has sparked some backlash. Last week, it was reported by Summit County Manager Scott Vargo that employees at the Target in Silverthorne were subject to rebuke and anger by some customers who refused to comply with the mask requirement.

Elsewhere in the country, the abuse has gone past verbal. In Flint, Michigan, a security guard working at a Family Dollar store was shot and killed by a customer after he refused to allow their family member to enter the store without a mask.

A CNN analysis on the psychology behind wearing masks suggested four primary reasons why people might not want to wear them.

  • Some people find the mask requirement to be a violation of their civil liberties and see it as government overreach.
  • Wearing a mask might be interpreted as a surrender to fear during a time of great uncertainty, when fear is already high. Seeing others wear a mask also could incite a fear response.
  • Masks and facial coverings can be uncomfortable or inconvenient, especially when attempting to talk to others, eat or drink.
  • Contradictory information about masks has been issued by global, national and local government officials since the start of the pandemic, with guidelines seemingly changing by the week.

“People value their freedoms,” Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist and author of “The Psychology of Pandemics” told CNN. “They may become distressed or indignant or morally outraged when people are trying to encroach on their freedoms.”

The World Health Organization still maintains that medical masks are only necessary if someone is infected with the new coronavirus or is caring for someone who is infected and that wearing masks for any other reason has not been proven to be effective.

Kristen Stewart and other volunteers wear masks as they assist with food bank deliveries at Summit Middle School on April 28.
Liz Copan /

But that guidance has been largely ignored by many nations. Countries now advising or requiring its citizens to wear facial coverings or masks include the United States, France, China, Kenya and others. The guidelines in these nations vary between suggesting or requiring masks and whether actual medical masks are required or mere cloth coverings for the nose and mouth.

Those nations appear to be following other scientific analysis that does find efficacy in preventing the spread of COVID-19 with masks and facial coverings, mainly because it greatly reduces the amount of respiratory droplets from spreading out into the environment and because respiratory droplets have been found to be a major mode of transmission among infected individuals. 

That is especially true for people not showing any symptoms despite a viral infection. Infected individuals not exhibiting symptoms are estimated to be responsible for 40% to 80% of all coronavirus infections. A study by the University of Maryland found that just wearing a damp homemade cloth covering the mouth and nose dramatically reduced the amount of expelled droplets from infected individuals.

Despite a countywide order already in place, the town of Breckenridge recently passed its own emergency ordinance requiring face coverings in businesses and other closely packed public spaces. In the ordinance, the town affirmed its belief in the science promoting facial coverings in line with the conclusions drawn by Gov. Jared Polis and the state’s public health department.

“The Governor of the State of Colorado, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Summit County Public Health Director have all acknowledged that the wearing of face coverings in public settings is beneficial and helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the town council wrote in its reasoning for the ordinance.

A sign is posted outside of Foote’s Rest in Frisco on Thursday, May 7, requiring masks and social distancing.
Liz Copan /

As far as enforcement of the measure, Breckenridge Police Department public information officer Colleen Goettelman said officers are enforcing the measure with citations and fines only as a last resort.

Instead, Goettelman said, Breck police officers are using education and verbal nudges as the primary method to encourage people to use masks in businesses and spaces where maintaining physical distance is not possible.

Local business owners are finding most people in Summit County are complying with the mask directive, with few exceptions. Paul Phillips, owner of Antler’s Liquor in Frisco, said his customers have been mostly on board.

“The majority of people coming in have been very cooperative about it,” Phillips said. “There are a handful of people who come in not wearing masks, and we politely ask them to wear one. And some people have refused to wear a mask, and those people don’t come back.”

Phillips said his business, which has been considered essential since the shutdown started, has been doing its best to provide facial coverings and masks to customers, even going so far as offering curbside delivery to customers who don’t want to wear masks.

The store also has installed sneeze guards at the checkout counter and has employees wiping down frequent touch points, such as door handles, every hour.

Phillips said he wanted to give his customers as many options as possible but affirmed that, regardless of how individual customers feel about it, he would be complying with the public health orders to protect his staff and customers.

“We see both sides of this, some people are fully supportive and compliant, and some people who are not,” Phillips said. “Our No. 1 concern and priority as a business owner in the town of Frisco and Summit County is to take care of our employees and customers, to ensure their health and safety.”

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