Pine River Valley residents remain divided over the idea of a mandatory face-covering order, even as their neighbors in Durango prepare to make masks mandatory.
San Juan Basin Public Health issued a face-mask advisory in April, which recommends, but does not require, the public to wear masks. While business employees around the state follow mandatory face-covering requirements, Durango plans to extend those requirements to the general public, with some exceptions. In the Pine River Valley, masks are a divisive issue.
“Some people are offended if you don’t wear masks. Other people are offended by masks in general,” said Amos Lee, Farmers Fresh Market manager.
Lee said he was “100%” against a mandatory mask order. It came down to personal liberty and being able to choose whether to wear a mask. People should take their own precautions without requiring others to follow suit.
“To do something like wear a mask for the purpose of protecting another, I think that’s absurd,” he said, adding this was his personal, not professional, opinion.
Farmers Fresh employees wear masks in compliance with state laws, although not everyone has access to high-quality face coverings. Over half of the customers do not wear masks, Lee said.
Greg Allen, co-founder of Bottom Shelf Brewery in Bayfield, declined to share his opinion because half of his customers might disagree with him. He did foresee some challenges with a mandatory order. For example, it would be difficult to eat while wearing a mask, he said. Requiring masks could also lead to confrontations with customers.
Ignacio town trustees also expressed mixed opinions during a board meeting Monday. Trustee Sharon Craig opposed a mandatory order, citing personal liberty, enforcement challenges and poor timing. Mayor Stella Cox was primarily concerned about vulnerable populations and asymptomatic spread. Trustee Alison DeKay emphasized using education to encourage compliance. Several trustees said enforcement would be a significant challenge.
The town would consider a mandatory mask order only if case numbers began to spike in the town or surrounding areas.
“We just all need to be aware of the situation and taking precautions we have to take, especially when it comes to staying safe,” Cox said.
In Bayfield, Mayor Ashleigh Tarkington said the town was closely following San Juan Basin Public Health orders. According to Trustee David Black, the Town Board has not discussed a mandatory mask order.
Black said he could see why people would protest restrictions caused by the coronavirus, but he could understand the advantages for having a mandatory mask order. He said he believes Bayfield residents would generally accept an order.
“If we all wear a mask, we could open the economy and that would be that,” Black said. “It’s being respectful of your neighbor.”