Wearing face coverings in public when social distancing isn’t possible can reduce the spread of coronavirus.
The Boulder County Board of Health has approved extension of the Boulder County Public Health Order requiring face coverings for every person older than 12 years old whenever in public anywhere in Boulder County that social distancing of six feet cannot be maintained. The Order will remain in place through Tuesday, June 30.
“Our team conducted informal observations in Boulder County communities and distributed a survey to businesses to get a sense of how well the order is being followed,” said Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health executive director. “Although we saw many instances where social distancing of six feet or more was not being followed, we are seeing high rates of compliance with the face covering order, especially in municipalities that also have a masking order. Wearing face coverings in public is one way for our community to help stop the spread while allowing us to reopen our economy; I want to thank our community for taking this seriously. It’s important to remember that maintaining six feet or more distance between each other, in conjunction with masking and handwashing, is still the primary way to prevent the spread of this disease.”
Monitoring showed very high compliance with mask wearing in small and large business environments in Boulder, Longmont, Louisville, and Lafayette. High volumes of shoppers were also observed at a variety of large stores in the cities, creating conditions that limit a shopper’s ability to maintain six feet of distance from other shoppers. The county’s mask order provides increased protection for people in those situations.
“There is no evidence that cloth masks lead to a buildup of carbon dioxide or impair a healthy person’s ability to inhale oxygen causing danger to the wearer,” said Christopher Urbina, MD, MPH, family physician and Boulder County Public Health medical officer. “Both of these gases can easily pass thru or around the mask. Occasionally, a person with chronic lung disease or asthma may experience difficulty breathing and can usually tolerate a mask for only short period of time.”
A cloth mask prevents large droplets of respiratory particles from being expelled into the air, which may contain virus particles if that person is infected. Once the virus is exhaled, it cannot be re-inhaled or worsen the person’s infection. Facial coverings can reduce the spread of droplets from the wearer to others; they do not necessarily protect the wearer from others.
The order does include exceptions, including people working alone in an office, anyone whose health would be negatively impacted by wearing a face covering (including mental health impacts), children aged 12 years and younger, and first responders under certain circumstances (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Order 20-26 requires first responders to wear face coverings).
While the Order does not require children under age 12 to wear a mask, it is expected that parents will encourage and supervise their use for their children older than three years old. Colorado has statutes that indicate that children under age 12 cannot form the requisite intent to violate the law in the same way that an adult can; therefore, masks are only recommended – rather than required – for children ages 3 through 12. Children younger than three years should not wear a face covering due to their risk of suffocation.
In situations where local municipalities also have face covering orders in place, the most restrictive order takes precedence. In addition, the statewide Safer at Home Order requires face coverings for some personal services, such as getting a haircut.
The Order defines “face covering” as a covering made of cloth, fabric, or other soft or permeable material, without holes, that covers only the nose and mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face. They may be factory-made or handmade and improvised using ordinary household materials.
It is imperative that everyone continues to wash their hands, not touch their faces, stay home when sick, cough and sneeze into their elbow, and regularly clean high-touch surfaces (e.g. doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, computer keyboards, etc.).
Details of the Public Health Order are available at www.boco.org/covid-19.
Boulder County Public Health COVID-19 updates are shared by press release and/or on the Boulder County Public Health Facebook and Twitter social media pages and the COVID-19 website at www.boco.org/covid-19.