Clear Creek County reinstituting mask mandate

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The Clear Creek County Board of Health has reinstituted a mask mandate, effective at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 7, for everyone 3 and older in all indoor places open to the public.

The county commissioners, sitting as the board of health, voted 2-1 Friday, Dec. 3 to reinstitute the order, to stay in alignment with other Denver-area counties and to help prevent viral transmission and subsequent hospitalizations.

Commissioner Sean Wood was opposed, describing how he believes lack of compliance will make the order ineffective and nothing more than “virtue-signaling.”

“We're all going to get (COVID-19),” Wood said, describing how he believes the virus will become seasonally endemic like influenza. “… The idea that we're trying to protect people from (COVID-19) is a losing battle.”

Commissioner George Marlin said he agreed with that statement, but also wanted to help protect the state's hospital system, which is already at capacity.

“The emotional tone (of conversation) is rising,” Marlin said. “We're in a pandemic, we're all thinking about our mortality, and it's really scary. … If everybody doesn't wear masks in indoor places, we might discover that our neighbor needed a hospital bed and didn't get one.”

The commissioners modified the order so that it would stay in place for 21 days of low or moderate COVID-19 transmission, or until Colorado repeals its crisis standards of care currently in place for hospitals. The state reactivated the crisis standards of care plan on Nov. 9.

While county staff initially proposed the order go into effect Saturday, the commissioners decided to it should start after the weekend to give businesses time to prepare.

“Tuesday gives them time on Monday to mask up and get their signs (ready),” Commissioner Randy Wheelock said.

He added that he wished Clear Creek would've had more notice about the other counties' decisions to reinstitute their mask mandates, saying, “We could've responded in a little more timely fashion.”

While not required, businesses will be encouraged to provide masks to customers who don't have them, and the county has masks it can give businesses for that purpose, County Attorney Peter Lichtman stated.

Regarding how businesses are supposed to handle noncompliant customers, County Public Health Director Tim Ryan said employees should not get into confrontations with customers.

“It's better just to move on and ignore that patron or whatever is best for your business,” Ryan said. “It's really all about trying to provide a blanket of protection as best we can. It won't be perfect.”

As with the previous mask mandate, Sheriff Rick Albers clarified that if businesses have a belligerent noncompliant patron, they should call law enforcement and the patron will be trespassed from the property.

`The best of bad set of options'

Wood described his experiences in Jeffco, which reinstituted its mask mandate Nov. 24, saying that he's seen very few customers and employees complying. He felt that, if someone was symptomatic, they should wear a mask to protect others. But, requiring everyone to wear masks was a heavy-handed approach, he described.

“I don't think (Clear Creek's) mask order is going to do anything to materially affect the (COVID-19 case) numbers in the state of Colorado,” Wood continued.

Marlin described masks an uncomfortable inconvenience, but a necessary one. He didn't like requiring those who are fully vaccinated to wear masks as well, but he said he viewed the order as “the best of a bad set of options.”

He said he wanted Clear Creek research establishing a program like other counties, including Jefferson County, where businesses wouldn't require masks if all staff and patrons were fully vaccinated.

Ryan responded that he believes Clear Creek doesn't have the bandwidth to create and monitor that type of program.

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