Who Wore Masks Worse: King Soopers Employees or Customers?

Right, wrong and really wrong.
Right, wrong and really wrong. Photos by Michael Roberts
It's Denver's fastest-growing game! Who Wore Their COVID-19 Mask Worse: King Soopers Employees or Customers?

We've been developing this contest over the past few weeks, ever since we noticed that major retailers in the metro area had been slacking on enforcing public-safety guidelines to fight the spread of COVID-19. Based on our observations, King Soopers was one of the worst culprits, and sure enough, two local branches soon showed up as Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment outbreaks — the first time in months the grocery chain had made that hit list.

Granted, mask use at King Soopers has become nearly universal in recent months. Problem is, a number of people still don't seem to realize that if that covering isn't over both their nose and mouth, it's pretty much a decorative item. Both patrons and staffers are among this clueless group, but which category contains the most scofflaws?

During a visit to our neighborhood King Soopers in southern Jefferson County last weekend, we decided to track mask mistakes by shoppers and staffers. And thanks to throngs of consumers (no, the capacity wasn't being limited, and social distancing was pretty much impossible) and a full staff on deck, we spotted loads of them.

The employees got off to a fast start. Within thirty seconds of entering the store, we spotted a worker walking from the general vicinity of the break room entrance with no facial covering at all. When he saw us looking his way, he delivered an eye roll and reluctantly pulled the buff around his neck over his mug. Employees ahead 1-0.

The lead changed during a tour through the vegetable section, where two customers had masks worn beneath their nose. But the competition tightened again, with a staffer in the meat section who has worn his mask incorrectly for months once again displaying a full schnozzola and his upper lip, and a vendor with his face covering nowhere close to his nostrils. Employees 3, customers 2.

At that point, shoppers made their move. Over the next several aisles, we saw four customers with an uncovered nose — and that's not counting the guy who lowered his mask to vigorously dig a finger into his nasal passage. Disgusting, yes, but since he returned his mask to the proper place after his excavation was over, we decided it wasn't an official violation.

At this point, all of the people spied wearing masks inappropriately were men. But there was a surprise in store.

By the time we had traversed the entire store and were heading to the registers, customers had a seemingly insurmountable 8-5 lead over employees — which made sense, since there were more of them than workers. Still, the employees had one last move to make: A checker's mask wasn't covering her nose. That resulted in two final scores: Employees 8, customers 6, and men 13, women 1.

This game can be played at any big store in metro Denver these days, but points tend to stack up higher in the suburbs. Residents of the city itself seem to have figured out the right way to wear masks, as Mayor Michael Hancock noted during a press conference revealing that the municipality had slipped to Safer at Home Level 3 (High Risk) on the CDPHE's dial system. But those in outlying areas aren't doing nearly as well — employees and customers alike.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts