Aspen City Council: Mask up as if your life depends on it |

Aspen City Council: Mask up as if your life depends on it

Elected officials plead with community, guests to wear a facial covering to slow the spread of COVID-19

Aspen City Council members during their regular meeting Tuesday supported the indoor mask mandate and pleaded with visitors to wear face coverings as the community is experiencing a high transmission rate of COVID-19.

“Our local community is trying very hard to protect itself and its neighbors,” said City Councilwoman Rachel Richards, who was attending Tuesday’s meeting virtually due to rising COVID-19 cases locally. “Unfortunately, we have thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths every day and people who are not taking the same precautions.”

Councilman Skippy Mesirow noted that with national news about COVID cases increasing and whether mandates are effective, there is no expectation that the vaccination rate will ever reach 90% in the U.S.

He noted that there is a 91.9% vaccination rate in the city of Aspen.

“I want to give our community some serious appreciation for showing up and making sure we are healthy,” he said, adding that he was attending the meeting virtually because he had a head cold the week prior and tested negative for COVID. “I’m exercising an abundance of caution in this new place and for my respect for my neighbors and colleagues, and I’ve seen more and more of that in our community, and I want to credit everybody who is taking proactive steps to care for themselves and their neighbors.”

Their comments came a day before public health officials voted to reinstate an indoor mask mandate in Pitkin County.

The board of health voted last month to require universal masking for people over the age of 2 in all schools and child care facilities in Pitkin County to slow spread of the virus and keep kids in school as much as possible.

Richards took issue with the board of health stopping last month at just the school district and child care facilities with its mask mandate.

“I have found it disappointing that the board of health chose to require masking in schools to protect our school children and would not in other indoor places to protect essential workers, our working community,” she said. “A great many stores, especially corporately owned say, ‘Well unless there is a community mask ordinance, we are not going to force it on our employees or our customers.’”

She also reiterated her desire to see more information about the local health orders and positivity rates in the public realm, particularly for visitors who may not know the county is experiencing widespread community transmission of the virus.

“I just think it’s just gotten beyond the pale of looking the other way and patting ourselves on the back because a certain number of us have gotten vaccinated when none of our guests have,“ she said. “I think it’s time to start talking about things like vaccine cards for admission to events, certainly any public building.”

Mayor Torre, who sits on the board of health as the city representative, said no one likes to wear a mask but together as a community, we’ll get through this as soon as possible.

“In these days we are trying to keep each other safe and healthy and this is one of the steps that we can achieve in order to do that,” he said. “We do not anticipate this running all the way through the offseason, if the numbers do bring us back into lower levels of concern so I do ask for this community to please abide by the mask mandate rules and regulations.”

Councilman Ward Hauenstein said he noticed when attending the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen last weekend that few attendees were wearing masks.

“We are a year and a half into this pandemic, and we’re still battling public safety versus personal liberties,” he said in council chambers with a mask on. “We are a tourist-based economy, but I have to say this of our guests — vaccinate, if you won’t vaccinate, wear a mask, and if you won’t wear a mask, go home.

“It’s your right to not vaccinate, but it’s not your right to infect other people and put their lives in danger.”

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