COLORADO SPRINGS — In the wake of a growing number of coronavirus cases across the state, Colorado Springs City Council President Richard Skorman will introduce an emergency ordinance early next week, requiring people to wear face masks in public, with the possibility of penalties if violated. The ordinance still has to go through council work session, but News5 spoke with a local restaurant owner who said a mandate like that would take some pressure off of local businesses.
One of the owners of The Wild Goose Meeting House, Russ Ware, said they decided to ask customers to wear masks inside their restaurant around two weeks ago. Patrons must only wear a mask while moving about the restaurant, but can remove them when seated at a table.
Ware said they did so to make both guests and staff feel safer. "Really saw the trends in terms of mask wearing from our customers sort of come and go... Realized there were some customers that were uncomfortable with the amount of people that didn't have masks on... As a place that does draw people together, we feel like we have a responsibility to do everything we can," said Ware.
Even though Ware said the majority of customers are understanding, both he and his staff were surprised by the amount of aggressive criticism they have received. "Almost every day, we have some handful of people that come in and are very unhappy with us... Why are masks so contentious? I do not know the answer to that, I really don't," said Ware.
While outside of The Wild Goose Meeting House, News5 spoke with a woman who was heading in there. Alice Alesandro did not have a mask with her, but said she would put on a mask if given one upon entry, despite expressing deeper issues with the requirement. "It's just a violation of my rights, and I'm not going to breathe on anyone, I really do try to stay at a distance and I do think most viruses are picked up on surfaces," said Alesandro.
Dr. Leon Kelly, the El Paso County Coroner, has been working with El Paso County Public Health throughout the pandemic. He compared wearing a mask to things like brushing teeth or putting on a seat belt.
Dr. Kelly said we are trending in the wrong direction, and need significant alterations in citizen behavior to change it. He also mentioned that science changes as more information is collected, and health officials have now learned that wearing a mask is one of the most powerful weapons against the virus. "You want businesses to stay open? You want to go to your favorite restaurants? You want to support those small businesses, those friends and family who are running those stores, and providing for their families? The best way that you do that is stay home if you're sick, social distance, and wear your mask. It's really simple," said Dr. Kelly.
He also mentioned that widespread adoption of a few policies are what could help pull the community out of the rise in COVID-19 cases. "Why you would think that wearing a mask is somehow the downfall of your liberties, I do not know. But, we would love it if everybody could do their part to help us get through this thing," said Dr. Kelly.
My hope is that we can still get a willingness to wear the masks, but in light of our increasing cases and hospitalizations, I support a mask mandate to keep our businesses open and their workers safe before we resort to rolling back our progress on opening.
Meanwhile, Ware said he has talked to other restaurant owners, who would be in support of a mask requirement in public. "Many of them have said to me, they would welcome more of a mandate, because then they would be able to say, 'hey, this wasn't our decision, this is a requirement,' and that way they're not on the hook to have to fight those battles with all the customers," said Ware.
News5 also obtained a statement from Mayor John Suthers on the matter:
We are losing ground in our effort to fight COVID-19 based on numbers coming in over the last few days. This puts us at risk of losing our variances, which have allowed many businesses to reopen. While I'm reluctant to do a mask mandate because of obvious enforcement challenges, if it comes down to choosing between closing our businesses again, or putting a mask mandate in place, I would likely side with our local business community and enact a mandate to protect them. However, my hope is that people will see the urgency of this situation, and voluntarily wear a mask, so we can move back to recovery and not put our city back.