Boulder County now has covert mask surveillance, to report who is wearing them and who isn’t — here are the results

Boulder County now has covert mask surveillance, to report who is wearing them and who isn’t — here are the results

How many people in Boulder County are wearing masks?

VicesAugust 10, 2020 By Will Brendza

Boulder is being watched.

Out on the streets and public parks, in the stores, shops and restaurants, hiding in plain sight, observant eyes are keeping tabs on how many people are wearing masks when they’re out and about.

It’s part of Boulder Country’s new “observational monitoring report,” which August will mark the third month of. The idea is pretty simple: gather data from the ground, to try and accurately assess the mask-wearing situation here in Boulder County. How many people are wearing masks in public? How many people aren’t? And is social distance being respected?

“It takes place at retail and restaurant locations and recreation locations (parks), but we are monitoring individuals and not businesses,” says Megan Noel, Boulder County’s COVID-19 Surveillance Co-Lead. “[Our goal is] to understand the ongoing adherence to face covering and social distancing guidance, to monitor risk for COVID-19 transmission; and to guide efforts to bolster adherence in Boulder County.

The County plans on running this program through 2020, in order to better guide Boulder County Health Department’s COIVID-19 policy judgments. The data they’re gathering is kind of fast and loose; it isn’t designed to be scientifically scrutinized, or used in any kind of legit studies. It’s just meant to give politicians and health officials a better look at mask data for Boulder, Erie, Lafayette, Longmont, Louisville, Nederland and Superior.

And, according to Noel, the public will have access to some of it, at least.

We plan to share the data to the extent it is helpful in protecting public health,” she says.

Here’s a look at the data they gathered for the Month of July:

Tables and data courtesy of Boulder County Health Department.

They hit over 40 locations, large and small over the months’ time; they observed over 2,300 people and they found that between 95% and 99% of the people they observed were wearing a mask when they were supposed to be. That’s good news for public health, and numbers that are undoubtedly held aloft by Governor Polis’ state-wide mandatory mask update.

Boulder County needs help gathering this data though. They need volunteers to be their eyes around town. It’s three to five days a month, and only requires an understanding of Boulder locales and a “strong attention to detail.” It’s unpaid, but volunteers will get experience in covert surveillance, if nothing else.

You can apply here if you’re interested.

Mask surveillance like this is likely to become a thing in many cities across the US. Thankfully, there isn’t any kind of whistleblower aspect to this program (not yet at least). For now, Boulder County’s mask surveillance is a simple data collection tool, and not a Big-Brother-method of seeking out and punishing people who aren’t adhering to the rules.

Hopefully it stays that way.