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Clear Creek officials have voted to lift the countywide mask mandate, despite the public health department's recommendations to maintain it. The county commissioners, sitting as the County Board of …
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Clear Creek officials have voted to lift the countywide mask mandate, despite the public health department's recommendations to maintain it.
The county commissioners, sitting as the County Board of Health, voted 2-1 to rescind the language requiring masks in all places open to the public, effective Friday.
Commissioners Sean Wood and George Marlin voted in favor at Thursday's meeting, as they explained that they wanted Clear Creek to align with neighboring counties.
Commissioner Randy Wheelock voted against, as he advocated that Clear Creek lead the charge in keeping a countywide mask order. He also expressed his concerns about the COVID-19 variants and those under 12 years old who are still ineligible for vaccines
Tim Ryan, the county's public health director, was likewise concerned about his ability to protect locals without a countywide mask order in place.
“Masks are — other than vaccines — the best way of slowing (the virus),” Ryan said. “ … You are eroding my ability to do my job.”
With the countywide mask order lifted, Clear Creek now falls under the state's mask order and guidance, which states that fully vaccinated people can go without masks in public indoor spaces unless the setting requires it. There are exceptions, such as public transportation, and businesses may implement their own mask restrictions.
Ryan stressed that neither Clear Creek nor Colorado is close to achieving herd immunity, as only 48% of Coloradans are immune to the virus based on previous infection and/or vaccination.
Simultaneously, as of May 18, about 53% of eligible Clear Creek residents had received at least one vaccine dose and about 45% were fully vaccinated, Ryan said.
He emphasized that his department will continue to host remote vaccination clinics around the county to ensure that everyone who wants a vaccine can get it.
With the mask order lifted, Wood appreciated that citizens are now responsible for wearing their masks when and where they would still be required; and if people don't feel comfortable going mask-less, they can continue wearing them, he said.
Marlin described how most Colorado counties have either dropped their mask orders or will soon, and didn't feel that Clear Creek should be the last one fighting this battle.
He stated that, given how small Clear Creek's population is compared to the Front Range's, he didn't feel it was enough to justify that fight.
“When our neighbors were doing it, we had a common message and a common goal,” Marlin said of implementing mask orders last summer. “Masks, at that time, were our only tool.”
He also hoped that rescinding the mask order would allow Clear Creek's public health department to focus more on vaccinations, saying, “We need to go into community-organizing mode, and get (residents) vaccinated.”
Despite what neighboring counties are doing, Wheelock felt that Clear Creek shouldn't cave to that pressure.
With all COVID-19-related capacity restrictions lifted, he said, “There's only one thing that we're doing to keep the unvaccinated safe, and that's wearing a mask.
“ … It's been a really rough year,” Wheelock continued, “and I have no problem staying the course.”
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