Grand commissioners oppose countywide mask requirement |

Grand commissioners oppose countywide mask requirement

As Grand County increases public health capacity for contract tracing, county commissioners remain reluctant to impose a face mask requirement.

On Tuesday, commissioners heard from Grand County Public Health about increasing the department’s capacity as it starts to take on more responsibilities related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board was supportive of adding health department staff, which will be paid for in part by grant money from the state. Increased staffing will also help the county pursue the “Protect our Neighbor” phase of regulations, which would loosen certain state restrictions.

The county saw letters of support for increased public health capacity from Winter Park and Fraser’s mayors and the towns’ chamber of commerce. These letters also encouraged the county to implement a face covering requirement when social distancing cannot be maintained.

“A countywide face covering requirement would help all businesses and employees maintain standards,” Winter Park and Fraser Chamber Director Catherine Ross said. “These restrictions are essential to limit the spread of the virus and keep businesses open.”

Fraser’s town board approved an ordinance requiring face coverings in public places on Tuesday, and Winter Park’s town council approved a similar ordinance later that day.

“Implementing requirements for the wearing of masks at a county level would put all businesses on a level playing field,” Winter Park Mayor Nick Kutrumbos and Fraser Mayor Phillip Vandernail said in their letters to the county.

Public health officials pointed out that mask wearing is the tool that has been working best to contain COVID-19, even more effectively than social distancing, according to recent reports. Public health officials said they support a countywide mask mandate, but county commissioners preferred relying on voluntary compliance.

“Let’s encourage people to do it, but let’s not make it mandatory,” Commissioner Merrit Linke said. “That’ s a big can of worms where we don’t want to go.”

Linke outlined his concerns over the complexities of such an order in a county with relatively low population density.

Separate municipal approaches to regulations were also a consideration. Linke and Commissioner Kristen Manguso said that Kremmling Mayor Grover Pryor had called them to say that a face mask requirement would not be suitable for Kremmling.

Manguso added that individual municipalities or businesses are welcome to implement their own standards.

“I believe if a business wants to require it, that’s fine,” Manguso said. “I don’t think it’s right for the government to say you need to do this as an individual business … If towns want to do it, that’s fine too. Let the towns make their own choices.”

However, the commissioners strongly encouraged the community to wear masks as a way to help slow the spread and keep the county open. They agreed that if COVID-19 numbers dramatically increased, a mask requirement would be reconsidered.

“Please don’t jeopardize that, folks,” Commissioner Rich Cimino said. “If there’s a big outbreak, we’ll revisit that.”

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