Lifted mask mandate won’t excuse Aspen hospital, airport, buses
Tuesday can’t come soon enough for those over and done with Pitkin County’s indoor mask mandate, but a few places will still require people to wear face-coverings for admission.
Among them are Aspen’s airport and hospital and the local public buses, all of which will continue to acknowledge state and federal guidelines regarding mask-wearing.
“Although the mask mandate may be lifted for Pitkin County, for the hospital itself, which still has to follow the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines and the state guidelines, that mask mandate will not be lifted,” said Elaine Gerson, AVH’s chief operating officer, at the hospital’s monthly board meeting held Monday. “Masks will continue to be required if you are coming to the hospital for any services whatsoever.”
Varying mask mandates and guidelines for health care providers and facilities have come from both state and federal agencies, and those rules supersede orders at the local level.
In its Feb. 2 interim COVID-19 guidelines for health care personnel, the CDC said that “source control and physical distancing (when physical distancing is feasible and will not interfere with provision of care) are recommended for everyone in a health care setting.“
Source control is a reference to respirators, face masks and cloth masks.
The Colorado Board of Health’s rule requiring 100% vaccination rates for licensed health care facilities by Oct. 31, which has been in effect since Aug. 30, also remains in force.
As well, AVH will continue to adhere to the vaccination mandate by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is the federal agency that establishes health and safety regulations for health care providers and suppliers that are Medicare- and Medicaid-certified.
“We are governed by federal rules and regulations because we accept Medicare as a payer source,” Gerson said.
In November, CMS posted its IFC, which stands for Interim Final Rule with Comment Period, regarding vaccinations for health care settings.
“We believe that the COVID-19 vaccine requirements in this IFC will result in nearly all health care workers being vaccinated, thereby benefiting all individuals in health care settings,” said the IFC. “This will greatly contribute to a reduction in the spread of and resulting morbidity and mortality from the disease, positive steps towards health equity, and an improvement in the numbers of health care staff who are healthy and able to perform their professional responsibilities.”
Both the CMS’s mandate as well as one from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s mandate, which had required vaccination and COVID-19 tests for employers with at least 100 workers, met legal challenges that the U.S. Supreme Court addressed in January. The high court upheld the CMS mandate through a 5-4 decision, but ruled 6-3 that OSHA exceeded its authority and blocked its vaccination and testing requirements.
AVH also will continue to conduct COVID-19 screenings (temperature check and COVID symptom questions) for people who enter the facility.
“We don’t expect the screening guidelines will end anytime soon,” Gerson said.
People at least 2 years of age still are required by federal law to wear masks on public transportation — including planes, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses, trains and other modes to get around. Transportation hubs also require masks under orders adopted by the Transportation Security Administration.
“Face coverings are mandatory in the Aspen Airport per TSA Executive Order,” according to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport’s website.