Eagle County will lift COVID-19 public health order May 19 | AspenTimes.com

Eagle County will lift COVID-19 public health order May 19

Move comes a week sooner that initially projected

Jack Reed, 13, receives his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by Dr. David Wahl on Thursday at Vail Health Hospital in Vail. The Pfizer vaccine was approved for children 12-15-years-old, with Thursday being the first day the kids were able to receive a shot.
Chris Dillmann/cdillmann@vaildaily.com

For months now, Eagle County Emergency Management Director Birch Barron has asserted that nobody will be happier than he is when the county can finally lift its COVID-19 public health restrictions.

Barron plans to celebrate in less than a week. He won’t be the only person at the party.

On Wednesday, the county will lift its COVID-19 emergency health orders. The move comes a full eight days earlier than anticipated.

Eagle County Public Health and Environment intends to make the move to lift all local public health orders related to COVID-19 with disease incidence showing a steady decline and vaccination rates on the rise.

“Residents and guests are reminded that the county is still subject to any statewide and federal public health regulations in place, including mask requirements in some circumstances,” the county statement said.

On April 16, the county adopted its current public health order, which was slated to run through May 27. The intent was to lift restrictions on that date if disease incidence and hospitalization rates had decreased and vaccination rates for the total population reached 60%. County officials say those milestones were reached this week.

May 19 will mark the first time there will be no local public health orders since March 12, 2020, six days after the first reported COVID-19 case in Eagle County.

On Friday, Gov. Jared Polis announced Coloradans no longer are required by the state to wear masks in most public settings, and the state’s remaining public health orders to fight COVID-19 will end June 1.

Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney said Friday the Town Council won’t hold a special meeting to reconsider its mask mandate. The requirement for face coverings was extended April 27 until June 8. However, Mahoney said the council may choose to reconsider the town’s position at its next meeting on May 25.

About two-thirds of Basalt is in Eagle County and one-third in Pitkin County. The Pikin County board of health board decided Thursday that everyone over the age of 2 must continue to wear masks indoors and on public transportation.

Rescinding the county mask order removes all local requirements for mask use, gathering and capacity restrictions and physical distancing. However, state orders remain in effect with mask requirements for public indoor environments, which does include schools for the remainder of the school year.

State COVID-19 orders that will remain in place include limitations on large indoor events to 500 people. Federal regulations still require masks when using public transportation, which includes ECO Transit and the Eagle County Regional Airport.

Beyond requirements

“Beyond what is required, it is important to recognize that some organizations and businesses might choose to adopt policies that keep COVID-19 precautions in place,” Barron said. “We have already heard from a few businesses that plan to continue using distancing and face coverings to market themselves to health-conscious customers, chain stores may have national requirements that need to be met, and some Eagle County towns may still have municipal face covering orders in place.”

Barron said nothing in the county order prohibits organizations from taking additional steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers if they choose to do so. But the county set two goals to rescind its public heath order and then set a target date of May 27 to get there.

“We felt confident that if we could achieve a community vaccination rate of 60% that we would see a rapid decrease in our disease rates,” said Eagle County Public Health and Environment Director Heath Harmon. “Our current data confirms this with our lowest disease incidence since October of 2020. As a result, we will rescind public health orders earlier than originally planned.”

In addition, with the lifting of local restrictions Eagle County has closed its Five Star Business Certification application. Individual businesses will have the ability to open fully, or implement their own capacity levels or other requirements if they choose.

“This is a testament to all of our community members and their efforts to stay safe over spring break, get vaccinated, and bring us to a place where we can plan for a more normal summer,” Harmon said. “While this news may be welcomed by many, it may also cause some anxiousness for others. It is very important we all play a role demonstrating empathy and respect to help bridge the differences and focus on our common ground as a community.”

Welcomed by many

County officials have been closely following the data this week in hopes of lifting the public health order.

“Our community stepped up and exceeded every expectation we had earlier than expected, and as a result, everyone in leadership agrees that it is time for us as a county to step up and do our part to transition us out of the local public health and emergency orders,” said Barron. “This is not a half step, this is a full step out of all local public health requirements.”

“We are so excited about being able to lift the emergency declaration and the public health orders,” said Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry. “It’s a testament to the hard work of all the community members and businesses, working together to follow health protocols and get vaccinated. We look forward to a strong, vibrant and healthy summer.”

Commissioner Matt Scherr said his official reaction is “Wooohooo!” He is thrilled that the county can end its public health order a full week before planned.

“There was no reason to delay it if we were where we needed to be,” Scherr said.

“It’s really thanks to the community. We set two goals and we achieved them,” said Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney. “This really is about the community stepping up to to that.”

McQueeney noted the May 27 target date was an attempt to let the community know that the county could be done with its public health orders by the Memorial Day holiday.

“We picked that date so people could begin to make some plans,” McQueeney said. “But we did it faster. Our community is just so responsive to the message of getting your vaccine.”

Vaccine push

While the county has reached its 60% vaccination goal, the push continues to encourage local residents to get their shots. The free COVID-19 vaccine is now available to anyone age 12 and older.

“While the news this week is highly encouraging, we must remember the disease is not gone,” Harmon said. “Every single person who gets vaccinated helps protect our community and our economy.”

Scherr noted his own 15-year-old son participated in a vaccination clinic held this week.

“We were there at 7 a.m. when they opened the doors, but we weren’t the first people in line,” Scherr said.

Local information on COVID-19, including disease trends and vaccine availability, is available at eaglecountycovid.org.

As the county approaches its COVID-19 end game, McQueeney predicted information will rapidly change at the state and federal level and pledged local officials will try to keep abreast of the changing conditions.

“We had, basically, chaos going into this pandemic, … but we we got through it,” she said. “ And now, we have a little bit of chaos getting out of it. But people will roll with it.”

Aspen Times reporter Scott Condon contributed to this report.

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