With masking mandates easing, some eager to ditch masks while others aren’t sure just yet
Routt County will revisit the local public health order, which includes masking requirements, Tuesday.
For Rob Day, the best part about masking requirements starting to relax is he — hopefully — won’t need to deal with people who refuse to wear them as much.
“That has been the biggest struggle throughout this whole pandemic,” said Day, general manager at The Barley in Steamboat Springs. “The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has looked at it, (Gov. Jared Polis) has looked at it. So, I think we are already at that breaking point where it just needs to happen.”
A day after the CDC issued new guidelines saying fully vaccinated people can go without a mask inside or out, in a group large or small, the state of Colorado dropped its masking mandate, leaving a series of suggestions in place.
While the federal guidance only applies to the vaccinated, Polis said Friday the state will no longer require masks for anyone, except in limited settings like schools, jails, prisons and medical or congregate care settings.
The unvaccinated and those who have yet to reach fully immunity from vaccination are still encouraged to wear a mask under the new state guidance, and local governments and businesses can still opt to have stricter requirements around masking.
Routt County’s current public health order has not changed since the new guidance came out late last week, but the Board of Health will revisit the order at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The order requires all people to wear masks when in indoor public spaces and when outside where social distancing isn’t achievable.
“For me personally, I am ready. We are in customer service; people want to see your face,” Day said. “We have been doing it for a year and a half. It will be different, but I am excited for people to see my face behind the bar.”
While shopping in downtown Steamboat Springs on Sunday, Deborah Decker said not wearing masks will be somewhat weird to get used to at first, but eventually, she would, just like someone gets used to a new haircut.
“It is going to be different, but it is going to be nice,” said Decker, who is fully vaccinated.
Esa Chen said that even if masks are not required for everyone, she expects many people will still wear them. As for herself, she wasn’t sure whether she would still wear a mask if it wasn’t required.
“I don’t know. Maybe — I guess it depends. I probably wouldn’t, but I don’t know,” Chen said.
Both Andrew Pietro and Samantha Leonard, who were visiting Steamboat for the weekend, said they are not really bothered by masking requirements, but when lifted, they will eagerly go about sans mask.
“I feel fine either way. I just do what I am told,” Pietro said. “I wear it so I feel safe, but I would be fine taking it off.”
Part of the hope among state officials is that the mask-less guidance for the vaccinated will help boost vaccination rates that have slowed in recent weeks. As of Sunday, 70% of residents 16 and older in the county had started the vaccine series, meaning about 1,150 people need to start the vaccine series for the county to reach its goal of 75% vaccination.
But while Colorado now has about half of all residents vaccinated, rates vary wildly from county to county, with San Juan County at an over 80% vaccination rate, while some Eastern Planes counties are still looking to get 20% of residents to get the shot.
“I am probably going to continue to wear one depending on where I am,” said Claudia Boswell, who was visiting Steamboat on Sunday from a small town in Oregon. “While the senior population is busily getting vaccinated, there is a number of folks who aren’t. If I am going to Safeway, I’m putting my mask on because I don’t know who’s gotten (vaccinated).”
Some large retailers across the country, including Walmart, responded to the new guidance by no longer requiring vaccinated people to wear a mask in their store, though the statement from the company said it would still comply with local masking requirements. But others like Target and CVS Pharmacy have opted to keep masking requirements in place.
At the end of the month, all state-level masking requirements are set to end, meaning only local requirements or those imposed by private businesses would remain. Currently, Routt County’s public health order is set to expire June 2, but that could change Tuesday.
“I think with everybody lifting it, I think that Routt County needs to let it go,” Day said. “I think if they don’t let it go on Tuesday, there is going to be a lot of very unhappy people in town.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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