Summit County officials respond to statewide mask mandate
KEYSTONE — Summit County commissioners and officials shared their support of Gov. Jared Polis’ move Thursday to make masks mandatory across the state.
At a joint Board of Health and Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting Thursday afternoon, officials discussed the new mask mandate and the county’s plan for a surge in cases, among other topics.
In a news conference Thursday, Polis announced that masks are now required across Colorado in buildings open to the public for people ages 10 and older. The mandate goes into effect at midnight Thursday.
The mandate doesn’t change anything for people in Summit County. Since Public Health Director Amy Wineland signed the safer-at-home order April 27, the county has required that people wear masks when in a building open to the public and outside when a 6-foot distance from others cannot be maintained.
“I thought it was great news from the state (Thursday) regarding that mask mandate,” Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said at the meeting. “We were obviously ahead of that step here in Summit County. I would say we were a leader in that, which is wonderful.”
Polis said the goal of the mask mandate is simple: decrease the spread of the virus statewide.
“Wearing a mask is not a political statement,” he said. “It’s simple. It’s common sense. It’s data. The virus doesn’t care what political party you’re in. The virus doesn’t care what police system you have. The virus doesn’t care what your ideology is. The virus is the virus.”
The board also discussed the potential enforcement of the state’s mask mandate. In the news conference, Polis said people who are not wearing masks would be penalized under trespassing laws and cited for a violation of the public health order.
County officials are still looking into how the trespassing law applies to the mask mandate, Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said.
In addition to the mask mandate, Polis announced that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will not be approving requests for a variance from the state order for two weeks. As of now, the county has no plans to apply for a variance, Wineland said at the meeting.
Some of the counties that applied for a variance from the order are experiencing the repercussions of that decision. On Thursday, Eagle County officials announced they will be rolling back to safer-at-home guidelines after an increase in cases in the county.
In the news conference, Polis said counties with approved variances that are seeing increases in cases will have to tighten restrictions. Otherwise, they will be in jeopardy of losing that variance.
Cases in Summit County have been slowly increasing over the past few weeks. However, the data is not at the point of warranting additional restrictions, Wineland said. If the numbers continue to increase and the county feels it needs to do more, public health officials first would target gathering sizes.
“We’d look at our data and see where are we seeing those clusters or outbreaks,” Wineland said. “Is it a particular business or industry where we need to make those shifts?”
Wineland pointed to the county implementing an 11 p.m. curfew on restaurants as an example of responding to rising cases. In the past seven days, the county has reported 20 additional cases of the virus. However, the rate of increase is promising, Wineland said.
“We know that our cases are likely to continue to increase a little bit over time, but we know that the rate of that increase is being slowed by the fact that we do have our mask mandate in place as well as emphasizing our physical distancing,” she said.
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Summit County is one of seven resort communities participating in the “Save our Season/Stop our Spread” initiative in response to level red restrictions on the states’ COVID-19 dial.