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As COVID-19 continues as a real and present danger, and with multiple, more violent strains of the virus now spreading across the country, public health orders continue to play a critical role in keeping us all safe.

In recent weeks there seems to be a larger number of Chaffee County community members refusing to wear facemasks while shopping. This is coupled with many businesses not reinforcing the mask mandate with either their customers or employees. Ark Valley Voice has compiled a list of community members’ stories; people who have experienced businesses not complying with the mask mandate. We asked ourselves, are you willing to shop in a business that does not have the community’s health and safety in mind? All stories have occurred within the month of January and all identities will remain anonymous.

Salida Stove and Spa

One local explained that he and his wife went to Salida Stove and Spa in Poncha Springs. They recall there being no marked signs and the female owner did not wear a mask. None of the backroom employees were wearing masks as well.

Buena Vista Tractor Supply

Another local explained that she is a once-a-week, regular customer at Tractor Supply. She explained that multiple customers were roaming around and checking out with no facemasks. She notes that employees were wearing masks and that there was a hand sanitizer setup. A few maskless customers were standing around just past the register as her line continued to check out. She asked the employee when it was her turn to check out, why they were allowing customers to get by without wearing facemasks, he shrugged.

The message is clear in Buena Vista and bolstered by the state mandate concerning Covid-19: Please wear your mask.

She reminded him that she might have to shop somewhere else from then on if they were not going to enforce facemask and social distancing rules. He shrugged again.

During the conversation, two customers not wearing facemasks looked in her direction, made audible comments and one swore at her. This was not the first time she observed this behavior there and says this was just the latest and the most threatened she felt by those not following public health orders.

Ace Hardware in Salida

One local went to Ace in search of potting material and to have a key made. When entering, none of the employees were wearing masks; some employees put them on after he entered the store. While the key was being made, employees not close to the front of the store continued to not wear masks and one passed out cake on paper plates.

While he was checking out, the employee passing out the cake leaned over him to give the cashier a piece of cake, without a mask on. Though he did not feel threatened, there was a blatant disregard for the public health orders, and he will not continue giving them his business.


Upon entering, she noticed two younger men, one with a mask, one without. The one without took a mask at the door and once he was in the back of the store, she noticed that both took them off and proceeded to pass employee after employee without comment. On another trip, she noticed a family of four, all without masks. The children looked to be older than 10, the age the mask mandate requires children to wear masks. None of the employees working asked the family to leave or put on a mask. In the self-checkout line, one female employee even went as far as to help them check out without any comments or repercussions. Since this encounter, she has tried to find items elsewhere but due to the lack of choices within the county, she must still give them her business.

While checking out another Walmart customer was jostled by a customer behind her who was not wearing a facemask. She asked the customer to back up and put on a mask and the woman said “On honey, I can’t breath in a facemask,” and ignored the need for social distance.  The checkout person said nothing, including even asking the woman to back up six feet.

Natural Grocers

Natural Grocers has had several instances of facemask violations:

If you have stories of businesses either complying with or ignoring the mask mandate, email to share them.

It should be noted that Chaffee County Public Health has brought up the need for some consequences for businesses that are not adhering to COVID-19 public health orders and, citing fairness; noting that some businesses have gone to great lengths to ensure public safety, while others continue to flaunt the health orders. The Chaffee Board of County Commissioners has discussed this at least three times, but so far has not proceeded with any tangible actions that would hold businesses accountable for obeying COVID-19 public health orders.