On April 3rd, 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis (Democrat) instructed Colorado citizens to wear “cloth face coverings” when leaving the house for “essential functions”. The Governor had previously defined essential and non-essential services, which has pretty much put the Colorado restaurant, entertainment and travel industries into a tailspin.

My first thought was, “OK, Gov, I’ll start wearing a mask when you start wearing a clown costume”, but it kinda doesn’t matter in my case. N95 masks need a tight seal on the face, but I have sported a full beard since I was released from active duty in 1972, and I don’t see any need to change that over a somewhat more potent cold virus (see the last section).

Anyway, it’s been 10 days since we went grocery shopping. At that time, the Walmart, Falcon, CO store had paper products (limit 1 to a customer), everybody was being cool, and we saw two customers wearing a mask.

Boy, what a difference 10 days makes…

The Store

Walmart, King Soopers, and finally Safeway instituted a night-club-style customer limit on their store interiors, i.e. you now have to stand outside in line in order to buy milk. The Safeway, Falcon, CO store had the East entrance blocked off, entry only from the West entrance. A Safeway minion was clicking on a mechanical counter as we entered the store, but we were not forced to wait in line.

Once in the store, we noticed new signs on the floor: Maintain 6 Foot Distance, Stand Here, Respect My Authoritah, etc. There were also arrows on the floor of each aisle, I assume to direct the flow of customers. Of course we ignored everything and went about our business.

The Employees

Most of the Safeway staff was suited up in mask and gloves. I’m actually OK with that – if I was an employer I would probably equip my customer-facing staff with appropriate gear to boost morale, and avoid any potential litigation. Oddly enough, many of the shelf stockers were maskless; the two guys in the produce section were maskless and carrying on as if it was a normal day (which of course it was). Our check-out gal was young, masked and gloved. Cheerful and courteous, when Delynne (who is always a class act) said, “Thanks for being here”, the reply was, “Of course, no problem.”

The Customers

About two thirds of the customers were masked. There were a few N95 types, a number of surgical masks, but most people were using scarves or bandanas. I guess bandanas will protect other people if you are sick, but I’m pretty sure viruses don’t much care about a piece of cloth.

The fear emanating from the Masked Ones was palpable. They didn’t talk, would not make eye contact, and scuttled down the aisles as if they were looking for an escape route. If I stopped to pull something from a shelf, they would stop and not attempt to pass me, while maintaining that 6 foot Magic Circle of Safety.

The Unmasked, by contrast, made eye contact, were smiling and even exchanged a bit of banter here and there. Well, at least it’s easy to spot the sheep now.

The Punch Line

As of April 8th, 2020, El Paso County, CO has 472 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

100 X 472 cases / 713,000 county population = 0.07 % infection rate.

i.e. 99.93 % of El Paso County residents are not infected.