Basalt council votes to extend mask covering rules for three months |

Basalt council votes to extend mask covering rules for three months

X’s mark six feet for social distancing outside of Basalt Elementary School on Tuesday, July 28, 2020.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Basalt Town Council members said they are convinced enough about the health benefits of face coverings that they extended required use for at least another three months.

The council has been approving a resolution requiring the coverings on a month-by-month basis since spring. Town Manager Ryan Mahoney suggested the extension for three months to Oct. 27.

“Certainly we could rescind it if a miracle happens,” Mahoney said.

Mayor Bill Kane said the preponderance of evidence shows the benefits of using facial coverings to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“I think the evidence is stronger than it was 30 days ago,” he said.

Councilman Glenn Drummond said he “wasn’t a fan” of face masks when the council first debated the issue in May. He said science has made him a believer.

The resolution passed 7-0. The resolution says all persons shall wear face coverings, “When entering and while inside the areas of a place of business open to the public.

“In such other public indoor or outdoor places where persons are unable to maintain safe social distancing (e.g. 6 or more feet separation) from others not of their own household, except for momentary circumstances to accept payment, deliver goods, walk or ride past another person, or perform otherwise necessary tasks.”

The resolution also states, “Places of business open to the public shall not permit entry by persons not in compliance with this Public Health Order.”

There were a number of exemptions, including one for: “Persons exercising in a gym or fitness center when wearing a face covering is not physically possible.”

Colorado has a statewide requirement for face coverings. It wasn’t immediately clear how the state requirement differs from Basalt’s rule. Local jurisdictions can go stricter but not more lenient than the state mandate.

In other COVID-19 news, Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Rob Stein met with Town Council to discuss plans for the school year. The district announced Friday it will start the year with a “distance learning model,” also known as online instruction. The academic year starts with orientation week Aug. 17. Live online classes begin Aug. 24. The school district, which includes Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs public schools, will start transitioning to more in-person learning starting the week of Sept. 21, if conditions allow.

Stein’s teleconference meeting with council was plagued by technical glitches, so about eight minutes of the conversation was inaccessible for viewers in the public.

Kane concluded the meeting by telling Stein that school officials are in an unenviable position that affects so many people.

“It sounds trite, but we’re kind of here for you,” he said.

After the meeting, Stein characterized the feedback he has been hearing from parents and other stakeholders as “positive, understanding but disappointed” that the school year cannot begin with in-person instruction.

There has been some “political taint” of the issue by people on both sides, he said, but the school district’s priority is health and safety for kids, teachers and community.

The school district collected feedback online through Tuesday night. The board of education is meeting and assessing that feedback in a meeting today.

Stein said coronavirus health metrics would be assessed over the next month to determine the district’s direction. An uptick in positive tests in Eagle County played a part in starting with online learning. A change to in-person learning will likely require a transition that blends in-person and online.

“We’re a large organization so we can’t move quickly,” Stein said. “Things are fluid, but they’re fluid like molasses.”

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