Masks' Metro Denver Comeback Before CDC's New Guidelines

More masking was evident during a visit to a southern Jefferson County Costco on July 25.
More masking was evident during a visit to a southern Jefferson County Costco on July 25. Photo by Michael Roberts
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance regarding mask use in public indoor settings — recommended even for those who've been immunized in areas where COVID-19 is spreading past a certain level — is a recommendation, not a rule. But even before the agency changed its position, masking was up in metro Denver.

After the CDC's announcement in mid-May that vaccinated people no longer had to wear masks in public indoor settings, which Governor Jared Polis quickly endorsed by way of an altered public-health order, facial coverings became exceedingly rare, if not nonexistent, in many metro Denver stores and restaurants that we visited. Over the past couple of weeks, however, as reports about the Delta variant and breakthrough cases began to get wider attention, this situation started to change.

For example, as many as 30 percent of the customers at an ARC Thrift store on South Broadway were masked during a recent weekday afternoon visit. A weekend trip to the Cherry Creek Shopping Center found employees at a slew of shops masked, with some customers following suit.

A few days ago, the Denver outlet of Angelo's CDs & More was still requiring patrons to be masked before entering the store, and at Wax Trax, fully half of those shopping for vinyl wore facial coverings even though they weren't required to do so.

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More masked customers at the Jefferson County Costco.
Photo by Michael Roberts
Outside Denver city limits, masks have been less prevalent. At the In-N-Out near Park Meadows on July 25, for instance, we saw only one person (an employee) wearing a mask even though the eatery was absolutely jam-packed. But that same day, we spotted masks on the mugs of between 10 and 20 percent of the shoppers and staffers at a southern Jefferson County Costco — a significant change from the previous month, when we didn't see a single masked person.

Of course, not everyone is on board with a masking return. At a nearby King Soopers, where masking was at around 25 percent (it had previously been closer to zero), our conversation with two employees proved particularly telling. We were talking about how busy the store was when the checker described the rush like so: "Everyone's probably getting their shopping done before they make us all wear masks again."

Nobody's making metro Denver residents wear masks — yet. But a growing number of them are choosing to do so anyway.
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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