MANITOU SPRINGS, Colorado — Manitou Springs is drafting an emergency order to require wearing masks in public. City Council gave direction on Tuesday to have city staff write the order under the community's existing emergency ordinance.
The news comes as a relief to many small business owners who've shouldered the responsibility of enforcing public health policy and irritated some customers along the way.
Deb Robinson-Dufford owns the boutique shop La Henna Boheme. She sets up portable hand washing and hand sanitizer station just outside of her entrance every day. Multiple signs are posted in the windows and on the door reminding customers to wear masks before entering, and Deb keeps a ready supply of disposable masks to hand out in case customers forget.
"I've given away at least 1500 masks," she said.
Up the street at Theo's Toys, owner Anthony Mogck put a plexiglass barrier around the cash register. He intentionally keeps the shelves spread far apart so that customers with children in strollers can comfortably navigate the store. That layout led to a natural flow of foot traffic which was the only major recommendation from public health officials.
Like Deb, he keeps disposable masks to hand out to customers who need them. But it's still difficult to turn people away who refuse to mask up.
"We take public health seriously, I don't want kids to get sick when they come into my store. I don't want myself to get sick or pass it on to my son or my wife," he said. Wearing masks doesn't seem to bother the patrons at Adam's Mountain Cafe. Of course, they can remove them while they're eating.
However, owner Farley McDonough said she's had a few people get upset when asking them for their name and phone number for contract-tracing purposes which is also a requirement for restaurants who reopen.
"If you do reservation only, you're already taking people's phone numbers and names, but because we're doing walk-ins, (it's necessary)" she said.
Under current public health orders, they have to limit dining room capacity to 50 people.
McDonough, Mogck, and Robinson-Dufford all said they appreciate and support the city moving ahead with a mandatory mask order.
"It's going to take some of the pressure off of me," Mogck said. "I don't think small businesses should be in charge of setting public health policy."
Robinson-Dufford said many of her customers have been supportive, especially nurses who visit from out of town. However, a few customers have taken great offense to her mask request. One called her a Nazi. Another posted in a Facebook group encouraging fellow members to leave bad reviews on her Yelp page.
"If someone does get mad, we can say it's a city mandate, and then they can grumble and leave," she said. "They're not going to get on my Facebook or give me bad Yelp reviews, all the stuff that we've had to do because they think it's our decision."
Word seems to already be getting out about the mask mandate. McDonough said a noticeably greater number of people wore masks on Wednesday as compared to earlier in the week.
"I think this is important that the city government support their small businesses and this is a way that you can do that is to give us that backbone," she said.
According to a statement from city spokesman Alex Trefry, more than 80 percent of respondents in a recent survey expressed concern over the lack of mask usage in the community. The order will be in effect once it's signed by either the mayor or city administrator.