Summit County plans to extend safer-at-home order
Move would keep countywide face covering requirement
FRISCO — Summit County officials are leaning towards extending the local safer-at-home public health order, a move that would keep the countywide face covering requirement.
The county’s safer-at-home order expires on June 30. Much of the order falls in line with recommendations and mandates from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Summit County’s order requires that members of the public wear face coverings, or masks, in buildings open to the public and outside when a 6-foot distance from others isn’t possible.
The state order only “urges” people to wear face coverings in public. However, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has emphasized the importance of face coverings in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus in both social media posts and new conferences.
“Our progress in Colorado is testament to the people of the state continuing to wear a mask, keep distance whenever possible and all of the additional protections around many of our older Coloradans, who are still staying home whenever they can,” Polis said at a news conference Wednesday.
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At a joint meeting Tuesday, members of the county’s board of health and board of county commissioners expressed concern that letting the order expire would send a message that the county no longer cares about the mask rule.
“I do see significant value in the mask component being a mandate,” County Manager Scott Vargo said. “My big fear is that, if we turn it off, it will give folks this indication that, perhaps, the county no longer thinks there is a value to mask-wearing and I think we will see a dramatic decrease in the amount of folks wearing masks locally.”
Public Health Director Amy Wineland and county commissioners Elisabeth Lawrence and Thomas Davidson agreed with Vargo.
“I personally think the face masks are a key component of the non-pharmaceutical arsenal that we have to fight this illness,” Wineland said.
Winelend pointed to a study by Health Affairs that suggests states with mask mandates significantly decreased cases of the virus from March 31 to May 22. According to the study, as many as 230,000 to 450,000 cases of the virus were averted by May 22 because of mask mandates.
Lawrence said she spoke with town of Frisco and town of Breckenridge leaders, who are pushing for an extension of the order. Both Frisco and Breckenridge have mask ordinances in addition to the county’s ordinance.
The county also has its “five commitments” listed in the public health order, which are not included in the state’s order. The five commitments urge the public to maintain a 6-foot distance from others, wash hands frequently and thoroughly, cover their face in public, stay home when they are sick and get tested immediately when they show symptoms of the virus. Extending the order would keep the five commitment language intact.
County officials also discussed changing transportation limitations with order extension. Currently the order refers to CDPHE guidance on transportation, which recommends that buses be limited to 20% capacity. Vargo said the 20% capacity is creating longer wait times for the Summit Stage.
“As we have more people in the community, we’re having more issues of not having enough capacity to take people at given stops,” he said. “That’s problematic and it’s probably only going to get worse as we get deeper into the summer.”
Assistant County Manager Bentley Henderson, Wineland and Environmental Health Manager Dan Hendershott will be coming up with a plan to address the transportation frustrations that could include new language in the county’s order.
Vargo recommended that county attorneys extend the order through July 31.
“Of course, if things change in the middle of that, the Board of Health and (Wineland), you have the ability to terminate it if necessary,” he said.
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