Pitkin County’s indoor mask mandate could be history by Presidents Day Weekend
Board of Health to discuss dropping all local COVID-19-related restrictions at Thursday meeting
Pitkin County Public Health staff will recommend that members of the Board of Health drop all local COVID-19-related restrictions including the indoor mask mandate when they meet Thursday.
That was the word Tuesday from Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock, who told county commissioners that the end of local COVID-19 requirements could come as soon as Feb. 18, the beginning of Presidents Day Weekend.
“We will actually have a pretty significant policy recommendation coming forward … to sunset the existing public health order,” Peacock said. “Sunset means a lot of the requirements in the public health order … will revert from requirements back to recommendations.”
Eliminating the indoor mask requirement for children in school and in child care facilities will be part of the recommendation. Public health officials have been coordinating the recommendation with local schools officials, who have said they need a bit of time to adjust their operations before the unmasking, Peacock said.
Aspen Superintendent David Baugh will speak at Thursday’s Board of Health meeting, Peacock said.
The decision to recommend dropping all Pitkin County COVID-19-related requirements comes after conversations between local public health officials and their counterparts with the state public health department. High local levels of immunity and vaccination, the declining though still high incidence rate and the return of Aspen Valley Hospital to mostly comfortable operating status played parts in the recommendation, Peacock said.
Public Health Director Jordana Sabella also cited state public health officials’ recent estimation that 80% of Colorado’s population is likely immune to the omicron variant at this point and newly achieved same day turnaround for local COVID-19 testing results at community testing centers as further reasons to eliminate restrictions as other reasons.
“There’s a lot of immunity in the community,” she said.
Pitkin County’s indoor mask mandate for schools and child care facilities was put in place by the Board of Health in August, while the general community-wide mandate began about a month later in September. The metrics for those restrictions and others were set during the delta variant wave.
“Things have changed,” Sabella said. “We want to follow the science and the data.”
Commissioner Greg Poschman, who also serves as chairman of the Board of Health, said part of the reasoning behind the recommendation is that other surrounding communities and counties have eliminated restrictions.
Besides the indoor mask mandates, the other restrictions that will come to an end if Board of Health members vote to end the restrictions include mandatory safety plans for events with more than 50 people and dissemination of the traveler responsibility code by lodging facilities to prospective visitors, she said.
Isolation and quarantine measures for those who test positive, however, will not change, Sabella said. Public health will use the same means to try and control transmission, she said.
Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury, who has children not yet old enough to be vaccinated, said she thought the indoor mask mandate would be eliminated further down the road. She said a parent group she hears from would prefer to keep masks for kids in schools.
Commissioner Francie Jacober, on the other hand, said she’s spoken to visitors who scoff at the mask mandate from a community with a high incidence rate.
“People are concerned the mask mandate hasn’t done anything to control (transmission),” she said.
Pitkin County’s COVID-19 incidence rate stood at 452 per 100,000 people for the seven-day period ending Monday, according to the county’s online COVID-19 dashboard. The county logged 78 new cases of the virus among county residents in the week before.
The Board of Health will meet virtually at 1 p.m. Thursday. Public comment is set to be taken around 1:55 p.m., Poschman said Tuesday. Go to PitkinCounty.com and click on “meeting agendas” for information on how to tune in to Thursday’s meeting.