The city’s public-health order that created the mask mandate requires grocery stores to “take reasonable measures, such as posting signs, to remind their customers and the public of the requirement that they wear a Face Covering while inside of or waiting in line to enter the business.”
Additionally, businesses “performing Critical Government Functions,” such as grocery stores, “must take all reasonable steps to prohibit any member of the public who is not wearing a Face Covering from entering and, if those efforts are unsuccessful, must not serve that person and must seek to remove that person,” according to the Denver order.
How the store will do that remains undetermined, and that concerns Chris Howes, president of the Colorado Retail Council.
“It’s not so much the order of a mask; it’s asking the retailers to enforce it,” says Howes. “It’s already a stressful environment.”
Howes points to the recent tragedy in Flint, Michigan, where a security guard was shot and killed outside a Dollar Tree store following an argument over a customer’s refusal to wear a face mask, according to law enforcement.
While nothing that drastic has occurred in Colorado, Cordova says that members of her union, which represents approximately 17,000 grocery-store workers across the state, have already had to deal with “customers becoming very violent or abusive…especially when the toilet paper ran out and supplies were short.”
“We are asking businesses to ensure that folks come into their stores as customers are complying with the order, but we also understand that we don’t want them getting into confrontations in their place of business,” Kristin Bronson, the Denver City Attorney, said at the May 5 press conference.
To prevent confrontations, Cordova suggests, “I think that the companies should get the National Guard or additional armed security, like off-duty police officers, to help monitor these customers — not only for the masks, but also for the social distancing.”
The city has no plans to add security, though; officials say the aim is to educate people so that they comply, rather than take a more heavy-handed approach with customers.
Howes believes that stores in his organization will be “making good faith efforts to comply the best they can by informing customers of the city’s order, without risking altercations.” If things turn physical, then employees will call the police.
But Denver hopes it doesn’t get to that level. “People will need to take the face covering order seriously, as they did with the stay-at-home order,” says Heather Burke, a city spokesperson. “City agencies will be involved with enforcement, with the goal of 100 percent compliance and keeping everyone safe.”