Summit County adopts most of state’s public health order, tweaks mask requirements
Masks will not be required if 80% of people are vaccinated in a public indoor space
Editor’s note: The new Summit County public health order did not take effect Friday as planed. Health officials are still working to revise the order in light of the latest mask recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Starting Friday, May 14, Summit County will have a new local public health order that closely resembles the state’s.
At a Board of Health meeting Thursday, May 13, Summit County Manager Scott Vargo suggested the county adopt the state’s public health order as a way to simplify the previous order and cause less confusion.
“What we’re recommending that we do going forward is that we mirror the state’s mask order with one exception, and that one exception is that we would require masks for folks 2 and older, and the state’s right now is older than age 10,” Vargo said.
Vargo said he hopes the change will be easier to understand among residents as well as people visiting the area who might be more familiar with the state’s order. Vargo also said it would offer more flexibility to some local businesses.
Under the new order, offices, restaurants, retailers and other businesses can go maskless if they can verify that 80% of the group participating in a meeting, walking around a store or working in an office is vaccinated. Vargo said it’s a business’s responsibility to verify those vaccination records.
“We would leave that monitoring activity up to those individual businesses,” Vargo said. “If a business doesn’t want to dig into that level of detail, then they are welcome to simply maintain a mask order within their particular business environment, whether it’s an office or a retail shop or a grocery store or whatever it might be.”
On the state’s website, there is an FAQ page that specifically calls out how businesses or facilities can determine how many unvaccinated people are at their site. According to the webpage, the state says businesses should err on the side of assuming that people entering their indoor site are unvaccinated unless they show proof of vaccination.
The website goes on to say that while the majority of Coloradans are still unvaccinated, most indoor public settings like grocery stores, retail stores and gyms will need to require mask-wearing.
Vargo said the county plans to use the state’s materials to update county residents about the change and educate the public about the switch. Vargo also said the county plans to adopt any new changes and mirror the state’s future edits to simplify the process of updating the local order in the future.
Vargo noted that the state could be releasing an update to its public health order as soon as this weekend that could include changes regarding outdoor capacities and indoor event capacities. If that happens, those measures would carry over into Summit County’s new order, as well.
The state’s rules are still more restrictive than guidance released Thursday, May 13, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said vaccinated people could stop wearing masks in most cases.
Summit County Commissioners Josh Blanchard and Tamara Pogue were hesitant about the new county order because it was another measure residents would need to learn. Ultimately, both were in agreement that it was a logical next step.
“It’s certainly confusing, but as we anticipated, transitioning from the COVID to post-COVID reality presents itself with some new challenges, and I think trying to explain it is going to be a continual process,” Blanchard said. “The state is going to continue to make updates as we see new data come in, and that’s going to be part of how it affects counties, specifically Summit County. (I’m) still listening, still trying to gain a clear understanding, as many folks are.”
Pogue echoed Blanchard’s sentiments.
“I think there are a lot of advantages to staying in line with the state order from a public understanding standpoint,” Pogue said. “I am concerned that we’re going to switch (Friday) having known that our community had some confusion over the last order, that we had to reeducate on the new order, and then if the state switches again, I’m further concerned about that.
“That said, I think it’s pretty clear that vaccinations are effective at this point, and so we need to continue to trust the vaccines, and reducing mask-wearing is certainly a part of that, so I don’t object to moving to the state order at all. I think that is a good strategy. I think I’m just a little bit concerned about the timing if the state does switch this weekend.”
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