Mask on, mask off: Town aligns with county face covering guidance |

Mask on, mask off: Town aligns with county face covering guidance

No more outdoor mask zones in Snowmass, council votes

Project manager Colin O’Neill works on the heated flooring in a new Snowmass playground structure being built by Garrett Brown Designs in Base Village on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The project will be finished on Memorial Day weekend; masks won’t be required for the kids playing on the structure or anyone walking outside in Base Village after a May 17 town council vote eliminated mandatory outdoor mask zones in Snowmass Village. (Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun)

Outdoor mandatory mask zones in Snowmass Village went the way of the woolly mammoth May 17 when Town Council unanimously voted on a new emergency ordinance that immediately aligned the town with Pitkin County COVID-19 guidelines and repealed town ordinances that put those zones in place.

People can now go bare-faced when walking through the Snowmass Mall, Base Village and Snowmass Center — the three commercial nodes where, since August in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, folks had been required to mask up at all times except when eating or drinking.

Pitkin County’s current guidelines only require a mask outdoors when 6 feet of distance isn’t possible; masks are still required in all public indoor settings except when eating or drinking.

Those rules now apply in both Snowmass Village and neighboring Aspen, where the mandatory outdoor mask zone became a thing of the past May 1.

Come May 28, local mask mandates lighten up even more. The Pitkin County Board of Health voted May 13 to relax its public health order, scrapping all outdoor mask requirements and creating a framework for businesses to begin welcoming unmasked patrons inside.

Businesses and events who wish to skip the indoor mask requirement must ensure that at least 80% of patrons are vaccinated and the other 20% of unvaccinated guests have received a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours.

It’s up to each individual business to track vaccination status for unmasked guests. Businesses also can stick with the status quo and continue to require masks indoors.

At this point, outdoor events like the Snowmass Free Concert Series on Fanny Hill won’t have to track vaccination status. Masks won’t be required at those concerts but will be required on public transportation to and from the event and in indoor spaces like restrooms, Snowmass Tourism announced May 17.

Town staff hope that removing one layer of rules and regulations will cut down on confusion about what is required when it comes to face coverings.

“I don’t see the need for another layer with the town. … It will certainly make it easier for all of us to just follow the county’s public health order,” Police Chief Brian Olson said.

Snowmass Village police could still respond and write a citation if, for instance, an unmasked customer enters a business that requires masks regardless of vaccination status and that business reports the incident, but the issue would be resolved before a county judge. Local police haven’t received many of those calls anyway, Olson said.

Plus, as Town Manager Clint Kinney pointed out, public health authorities are constantly updating face covering guidance.

The Snowmass mask zones were originally set to expire June 7. But after last week’s flurry of announcements from local, state and federal authorities rolling back mask regulations, it was time for Snowmass to catch up.

“This is another reason we’re trying to get rid of our local laws because it’s just changing so fast,” Kinney said.

Those changes started with a Thursday morning announcement from the Centers for Disease Control that vaccinated Americans can go footloose and face mask-free indoors and out. Pitkin County Public Health followed that afternoon with the decision to lighten up on mask guidelines effective May 28. And May 14, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis nixed statewide mask mandates in favor of softer face covering “suggestions.”

“Between the state making the changes, between the county making the changes, it’s staff’s opinion that having a local ordinance and trying to govern (it) is just adding confusion and not clarifying anything,” Kinney said. “Knowing that the county just recently passed theirs, theirs is going to be the most restrictive ordinance on the books, so that will be the one that will be the guidance for the community.”

All three council members who were present at the May 17 meeting — Mayor Bill Madsen, Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk and Councilman Tom Fridstein — were in favor of the emergency ordinance aligning with county guidance.

Councilman Tom Goode and Councilman Bob Sirkus were absent.

Pitkin County Mask Requirements

Through May 27: Masks are required in all indoor public spaces except when eating or drinking. Masks are required outdoors only when 6 feet of distance isn’t possible.

Beginning May 28: Masks are not required outdoors. Masks are still required in indoor public spaces and modes of transportation (bus, taxi, ride-shares). Businesses can opt out of the indoor mask requirement if they ensure 80% of patrons are vaccinated and the other 20% show proof of a negative COVID-19 test from within the past 72 hours.

At all times: Masks are required on public transportation.