November 29, 2021

Boulder County Public Health set to reinstate indoor mask mandate – Boulder Daily Camera

Due to high levels of transmission of coronavirus in Boulder County, people will soon be required to wear masks indoors.

Boulder County Public Health also is working to develop a new program that incentivizes businesses to instate vaccine policies by allowing them to obtain exemptions from the mask mandate if a vaccination policy is in place.

The new public health order, unanimously approved Thursday by Boulder County’s Board of Health, is set to go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday. Masks will be required in any public indoor space or office settings, but not required in homes.

The new “voluntary fully vaccinated facility program” will not begin accepting applications until the end of September as the county public health organization continues to iron out the details.

There are some exemptions to the mask mandate, including for those who cannot wear a mask for medical purposes, for those actively eating and drinking, and for those who are hearing impaired.

Members of the Board of Health largely supported the order, which follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommends a mask mandate for counties with high or substantial levels of transmission.

According to data presented Thursday, the county currently has an incidence rate of 136.42 per 100,000 people.

“Our current cases are higher than what they were at the same time last year,” BCPH epidemiologist Michael Wu said. “If another surge happens this fall, we’re already starting from a higher baseline.”

“We’ve got to take some additional action,” Board of Health President Gregg Thomas agreed.

Despite the unanimous support, there were some concerns about how effective the mandate would be.

Board member Brooke Harrison supported the public health order and said she was particularly appreciative of the idea of incentivizing vaccination.

“However, I’m still skeptical,” she said. “I’m skeptical that the unvaccinated will wear their masks. And I am a little skeptical that it will stem the spread quickly, especially if our surrounding counties don’t implement one as well.”

Boulder County Public Health rescinded its mask mandate in May, following suit with the state when it adopted new mask rules around that time that no longer required residents to wear masks in most public settings.

Recently, however, with cases on the rise due to the delta variant, BCPH began recommending that people wear masks indoors and now it’s opted to take the recommendation a step further.

Thomas worried about the timing, given that the new public health order was set to go into effect fewer than 24 hours after the special meeting on Thursday.

However, Deputy County Attorney Trina Ruhland confirmed that the enforcement team would not enact any penalties unless a business was actively defying the new public health order. The enforcement team would provide warnings and allow time for businesses and people to adjust to the changing circumstances, she said.

Entertainment concerns

David Weingarden, vice president of Z2 Entertainment, which operates the Fox and Boulder theaters, spoke during public comment at the special meeting, arguing the mask mandate could be detrimental to the various businesses he operates.

“We had zero dollars for 15 months,” he said, emphasizing how challenging the pandemic has been for the entertainment industry.

Weingarden later added that the venues already require proof of vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test for those hoping to attend a show.

Z2 CEO Cheryl Liguori agreed, expressing further concerns about the wording in the order that allows a person to lower their mask when seated at an establishment.

The Board of Health opted to add in a provision that allows a person to lower their mask when seated at an establishment or when actively eating or drinking. Board members agreed the move was meant in part to protect music venues, where people are served beverages but primarily stand to consume them.