Routt County removes mask mandate
The order repeals all local public health orders, leaving just the state mask order in place.
Masks are no longer required in most situations in Routt County.
The Routt County Board of Health rescinded the local public health order, which included the mask mandate, at a meeting Tuesday afternoon, leaving just the state masking order in place.
“There were so many times where it felt like we would never get here, and yet, here we are, and I think we should definitely take a moment to appreciate that,” said Commissioner Beth Melton, who said she got choked up while reading the motion to rescind the local order. “I can’t really express how big of a deal this feels like.”
The state order requires unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated Coloradans age 11 and older to wear a mask in schools, jails, prisons and medical or congregate care settings. There also are still federal mandates in place that require everyone to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains and in other public transportation hubs.
“It does not mean that the pandemic is over,” said Roberta Smith, Routt County public health director, who recommended the move. “We still have a lot to do. We still need our community to increase our vaccination rates and make sure that we are protecting our most vulnerable populations.”
Businesses are still allowed to require masks, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment still recommends students wear masks in school, even if vaccinated. In a meeting Monday, Superintendent Brad Meeks indicated that students in Steamboat schools would continue to wear masks for the remaining weeks of the school year.
Cases in the county have dropped to just 12 in the most recent week, and despite an outbreak at two recent events, Smith said she is confident the county is not making this move too soon.
“We have looked at the science and looked at the data to really drive these decisions,” Smith said. “The other things you have been doing, you still need to continue to do those things. Wash your hands, cover your cough, if you’re sick stay home.”
Contact tracing and case investigations are not going away, Smith said, as they are part of state law. The department also has the authority to shut down a business if there is an outbreak.
“We don’t need a local public health order to have those tools in our toolbox,” Smith said.
Smith credited much of the progress against COVID-19 to the vaccines and Routt County’s residents for getting vaccinated at a rate that is among the highest in the state. Still, epidemiologist Fritha Morrison said the county has not reached heard immunity as just 53% of all residents are fully vaccinated.
“There are still a lot of people who should be masked out there and a lot of people still at risk for becoming cases,” Morrison said.
Commissioner Tim Corrigan said he has heard that people believe they can forgo their shot because so many others are now vaccinated.
“Just because your passenger puts on their seatbelt, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to put your seatbelt on either,” Smith said. “We all need to play our part and provide protection to ourselves by getting vaccinated.”
Several people joined public comment Tuesday to thank commissioners and public health officials for the work they have done since March of last year.
“I am really very proud to be a resident of Routt County,” said Judy McGinnis.
Melton said she remembered discussing what the Routt County Fair was going to look like last spring, and Corrigan saying the pandemic really felt real at that point. Melton said she felt that way too.
Commissioners received a presentation about the 2021 fair earlier Tuesday, which will have the theme, “Back in the saddle.”
“I think that that is really appropriate,” Corrigan said.
This story will be updated.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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