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County board of health discusses potential age limit for wearing masks

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As mask wearing continues to be a point of debate across the nation, the age of mask wearers is now under scrutiny locally.

There are differences in guidelines set forth by various entities for what age masks should and should not be worn. That was the consideration Wednesday during a Routt County Board of Public Health meeting. Wednesday also marked the county surpassing 100 positive COVID-19 cases and a seventh death, a resident of The Haven senior living center in Hayden.

The state’s mask mandate suggests, but does not make mandatory, age limitations for wearing masks, according to Routt County Public Health Medical Officer Dr. Brian Harrington. Routt County’s current public health order offers a blanket mask requirement and does not distinguish by age.

Current guidance from the state suggests children 10 and younger need not wear a mask. Nationally, however, entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians have discussed that it is “not practical and not desirable” for children younger than 2 to wear a mask.

“That is one cutoff point that is a constant discussion point in the medical community,” Harrington said.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, transmission of COVID-19 and its infection rate is low in children. That information is used to justify the state’s recommendation of an age limit, Harrington said.

Only 2.9% of positive COVID-19 cases in Colorado have been in children younger than 10. Routt County has had no positives in that age group though some have been tested. The youngest person to have a positive case in the county was 16 years old and age 11 for a positive antibody test. 

Still, Harrington made it clear that COVID-19 can in fact affect young children.

In September, a traditional date for the onset of cold and flu season, there are more cases of respiratory illnesses in the county, Harrington explained, due to the start of school.

“When our kids are young, we get more colds and stuff — they bring it back to us,” he said.

Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton, a former teacher, agreed.

“I think it’s prudent to have mask wearing for children as they go back to school,” said Melton, who has a 4 ½-year-old son. Melton said he does fine wearing a mask.

Melton noted there will likely be more of an issue ensuring middle and high school students wear masks.

Teachers across the county have raised concerns about their safety, according to Melton.

“As both a parent and a teacher … when kids go back to school, everybody gets sick,” she said. “This year, that’s going to be a real issue.”

The Routt County Board of Commissioners took no formal action on changing the age limit for wearing a mask and will continue to follow the CDC’s recommendation that no one younger than 2 should have to wear a mask.

Commissioners, acting as the Routt County Board of Helath, voted to extend the current county public health order that stipulates a business mitigation plan and mask mandate to Sept. 30, with Commissioner Doug Monger voting in dissent. 

“The No. 1 reason I’m against this order is because it’s duplicate (with) the state,” Monger said. “I’m not very happy being the mask police.”

Monger said he’s been getting an exorbitant amount of pressure about the mask mandate from residents in his district, particularly in Hayden and West Routt.

Though Monger said he supports wearing a mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19, he is against making it mandatory.

To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.


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