Pitkin County’s indoor mask mandate could be the story of Presidents’ Day weekend

A woman enters the lobby of The Inn at Aspen on Tuesday. The Pitkin County Board of Health will discuss dropping the indoor mask mandate Thursday at its next meeting. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Pitkin County Public Health staff will recommend that board of health members drop all local COVID-19 restrictions, including the indoor mask mandate, when they meet Thursday.

That was the word on Tuesday from Pitkin County Executive Jon Peacock, who told county commissioners that the end of local COVID-19 requirements could come as early as Feb. presidents day.

“We’ll actually have a pretty big policy recommendation coming…to end the existing public health order,” Peacock said. “Sunset means that many public health order requirements … will revert from requirements to recommendations.”

The elimination of the requirement to wear a mask indoors for children in school and daycare will be part of the recommendation. Public health officials coordinated the recommendation with local school officials, who said they needed some 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 requirements comes after conversations between local public health officials and their counterparts with the state Department of Public Health. High local levels of immunity and vaccination, the declining but still high incidence rate and Aspen Valley Hospital’s return to a generally comfortable operating state played a part in the recommendation, Peacock said. .

Director of Public Health Jordana Sabella also cited the recent estimate by state public health officials that 80% of Colorado’s population is likely immune to the omicron variant at this point and the timeframe for recently obtained same-day execution for local COVID-19 test results at community testing centers as other reasons. to eliminate restrictions like other reasons.

“There’s a lot of immunity in the community,” she said.

Pitkin County’s indoor mask mandate for schools and daycares 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 these and other restrictions were set during the wave of delta variants.

“Things have changed,” Sabella said. “We want to follow the science and the data.”

Commissioner Greg Poschman, who is also chairman of the Board of Health, said part of the reasoning behind the recommendation is that other surrounding communities and counties have eliminated restrictions.

In addition to indoor mask mandates, other restrictions that will end if members of the Board of Health vote to end the restrictions include mandatory safety plans for events with more than 50 people and the dissemination of the responsibility code of travelers by accommodation establishments to potential visitors, she said.

Isolation and quarantine measures for those who test positive will not change, however, Sabella said. Public health will use the same means to try to control transmission, she said.

Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury, who has children not yet old enough to be vaccinated, said she believes the indoor mask mandate will be phased out later. She said a group of parents she hears about would prefer to keep masks for children in schools.

Commissioner Francie Jacober, meanwhile, said she spoke to visitors who scoff at a high-incidence community’s mask mandate.

“People are concerned that the mask mandate has done nothing to control (the transmission),” she said.

Pitkin County’s COVID-19 incidence rate was 452 per 100,000 people for the seven-day period ending Monday, according to the county’s online COVID-19 dashboard. The county recorded 78 new cases of the virus among county residents the previous week.

The Board of Health will meet virtually at 1 p.m. Thursday. Public comments should be taken around 1:55 p.m., Poschman said Tuesday. Go to PitkinCounty.com and click on “meeting schedules” to find out how to log into Thursday’s meeting.

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