Routt County commissioners reject indoor mask mandate

Going against a recommendation from Routt County Public Health officials, commissioners unanimously opted to not to reinstate masking requirements

The Routt County Board of Health rejected a mask mandate on Tuesday, Jan. 4, going against the recommendation from local public health officials.

“This decision is about the gravity of issuing a public health order and this significant responsibility that we have as elected officials to utilize that tool only when we believe that it is absolutely necessary,” said Commissioner Beth Melton.

Routt County last had a mask mandate in May, and commissioners have consistently resisted reinstating such requirements, pointing to high local vaccination rates and a lack of mandates at the state level.

Still, the Omicron variant is leading to a torrent of new COVID-19 cases, with 410 new cases reported in the last seven days in the county. The positivity rate is more than 19%, meaning about one out of every five COVID-19 tests reported to the public health department are coming back positive.

While cases are surging, what commissioners said they were focused on is hospital capacity, which they don’t believe is being stressed enough to warrant a new masking order.

“No one here has any doubts about the severity of COVID, the effectiveness of vaccines, the importance of masks in the fight against COVID both today and going forward, or the validity of the data that’s been shared,” Melton said. “I believe that the power to issue public health is incredibly significant, and it is a power of government that should not be overused.”

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