Garfield County encourages continued mask use, other COVID-19 precautions

State bringing mass vax clinic to Glenwood next month

Garfield County residents are “encouraged,” but not mandated, to continue wearing masks indoors and follow other health-safety practices to keep the spread of COVID-19 in check.

Beyond that, though, the county is essentially reopened to pre-pandemic levels in all but a few sectors still governed by state public health rules.

The exception is within Glenwood Springs city limits, where City Council last week extended its ordinance requiring masks to be worn indoors, at least through May 20.

Also, if a county’s one-week incidence rate exceeds 35 per 100,000 people, face coverings continue to be required indoors if there are 10 or more people present who are unvaccinated or their vaccination status is unknown, County Attorney Tari Williams noted, pointing to the latest state public health orders.

Tracking and enforcing that, however, would be difficult, commissioners concurred. The county will continue with an “education before enforcement” approach, they said.

Currently, Garfield County’s one-week incidence rate does exceed that level.

As of Monday, it stood at 108 per 100,000, which remains in the “concern” level. However, that is down significantly from last week when the local incidence rate exceeded 157 per 100,000.

Following the April 15 elimination of the state COVID-19 dial system that previously governed county-level restrictions, and a return to local control, the Board of County Commissioners on Monday passed a resolution outlining the county’s policy.

“The BOCC recognizes that the pandemic is not over and that as state restrictions decline the burden of preventing virus spread becomes a local issue,” states the resolution, which passed 3-0. “Going forward, Garfield County will treat COVID-19 like all other communicable diseases as defined by the CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) and the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control).”

At the same time, the commissioners wish to “move Garfield County residents and the economy forward and strike a locally appropriate balance between the serious need to continue to curtail virus spread with the need to ensure small businesses and the local economy can open to the extent that each is comfortable …”

County Commissioner Mike Samson noted that the key word in the resolution is “encourages.”

“This is not mandatory,” he said of the recommendation that people continue to wear masks indoors.

When it comes to private businesses requiring a mask, though, patrons should comply with that, Samson said.

“If a business wants you to wear a mask, you should respect that,” he said. “We’re just asking everybody to use common sense and to be respectful of each other.”

Two of Garfield County’s primary medical providers formally requested that the county commissioners consider requiring masks when in public indoor settings.

“The great news is that we have already protected a sizeable portion of our most vulnerable population,” said Drs. Kevin Coleman and Matt Percy, chief medical officers respectively for Grand River Health and Mountain Family Health Centers, in a letter to the commissioners.

“However, we still have not vaccinated enough of the general public to prevent rapid spread of COVID-19 if other public health measures are removed,” the letter states, adding that 70% of the local population should be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

Currently, about 40% of the Garfield County population has been fully vaccinated, Mason Hohstadt, public health specialist for Garfield County Public Health, said during the monthly COVID-19 update to the commissioners Monday.

About 52% have received at least their first dose of one of the two-dose vaccines that have been available, he said.

Masks continue to be required, per state public health orders, in certain settings. Those include some businesses and government offices, larger indoor gatherings or events, schools and child-care facilities, assisted living/nursing homes, and other types of group homes.

Garfield County continues its stepped-up efforts to accommodate as many people who want to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Public Health Director Yvonne Long said.

Recently, the CDPHE agreed to offer a community mass vaccination site in Glenwood Springs, possibly by the second week of May, she said.

Also, the state is sponsoring a mobile vaccination van that will be traveling through the Western Slope and is expected to make stops in Garfield County.

“We are increasing our availability to be able to vaccinate more and more people … and bring as many avenues as possible to people who still want to seek out that vaccine,” Long said.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or

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