Aspen’s outdoor mask zone expires on Saturday |

Aspen’s outdoor mask zone expires on Saturday

Aspen City Council unanimously approves an ordinance that keeps indoor facial coverings, and outdoors when social distancing is unattainable

People walk along Main St. in downtown Aspen in the city’s designated outdoor mask zones on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

As the Center for Disease Control on Tuesday eased its guidelines for people wearing facial coverings outdoors, Aspen City Council voted to let lapse its ordinance mandating a mask zone throughout downtown on May 1.

Council during its regular meeting unanimously passed an amended emergency ordinance that continues to require people to wear masks in indoor public places, as well as outdoors when they are unable to maintain social distancing and are with people from a different household. The ordinance expires June 7.

What was removed from the ordinance was requiring people to wear masks outdoors in a specific geographical area in the downtown core, the commercial area along North Mill Street and at Highlands base area.

That mask zone has been in place since last year and was being considered by council to be extended until at least June 7.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards preferred to extend the mask zone until that date, citing a rise in COVID-19 cases among children and an uptick in the positivity rate in Colorado.

“I’m having a little concern about unmasking right now,” she said. “I am comfortable with the expiration of June 7 and that is roughly 40 days from now, it’s not an especially longer time to try to wait this out in the name of protection of public health.”

Councilwoman Ann Mullins agreed with Richards, and said masks protect both the wearer and the people around them.

But Councilman Ward Hauenstein and Mayor Torre voted against the extension in an initial vote for adopting the ordinance as written.

Hauenstein said he shares Richards’ concerns but there are too many regulations for the average citizen to follow when it comes to COVID-19 public health orders.

“With three layers of ordinances, our ordinance, the county public health order and the state, it’s pretty much confusion for anybody,” he said.

Failing to get the required unanimous vote, Richards and Mullins changed their positions and voted with their colleagues to keep the indoor mask and outdoor social distancing regulations intact until June 7.

Council members expect the city will fall under Pitkin County’s public health order after that date, which will likely mirror what was passed on Tuesday.

City staff aired their concerns in a memo to council that maintaining the outdoor zone regulation may cause confusion if the county has addressed its own face covering mandates.

“If the city’s ordinance is completely consistent with the county’s, there should be no problem,” wrote City Attorney Jim True. “However, any discrepancy between the two could be a basis of confusion.”

The county’s board of public health is expected to vote on facial coverings when it meets next month.

Mayor Torre said if conditions change, council can revisit the mandatory mask zone and any other public health orders.

His main concern was not letting the ordinance requiring indoor and outdoor proximity mask wearing expire on May 1.

“I think it’s important that the city of Aspen maintains its voice in how we feel about these masks being worn indoors,” he said. “This council is extremely concerned about the health and safety of our community and we recommend that you take every precaution that you feel necessary.”

Elected officials throughout the valley have adjusted their face mask laws, with the most recent being Basalt Town Council on Tuesday extending indoor regulations until June 8, along with outdoor social distancing protocols.

Snowmass Village Town Council earlier this month extended its mask zone ordinance to June 7.

Glenwood Spring City Council also earlier this month extended the town’s existing face covering mandate for indoor public-facing spaces. For outdoor spaces, masks are no longer mandatory but encouraged when in close proximity with others.

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