Garfield County rescinds pandemic emergency declaration
Public health still advises mask use indoors and in certain outdoor settings for unvaccinated
The coronavirus pandemic is no longer considered an emergency in Garfield County, and things continue to return to some semblance of normal based on recent case trends and the local vaccination rate.
Garfield County commissioners on Monday rescinded the public health emergency declaration that was put in place over a year ago, on March 16, 2020, soon after COVID-19 first appeared in Colorado.
Doing so won’t negatively impact the county in terms of relief funds eligibility or other assistance, Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long said during her monthly COVID-19 update to the commissioners.
“This allows us to move into a period of normalcy here in Garfield County,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said.
From a public health standpoint, “We will still continue to treat COVID-19 as a communicable disease,” Long said.
The county, through a separate public health order, also continues to follow state public health orders, including the revised mask mandate issued late last week by Gov. Jared Polis.
“Those who are fully vaccinated really can go about their business day to day (without restrictions),” Long said.
However, it’s still strongly advised those who are not yet fully vaccinated or don’t intend to get the COVID-19 vaccine to continue to wear masks in certain settings to prevent disease spread.
That’s especially important as new variants of the novel coronavirus take shape around the world, she said.
On Friday, Gov. Polis amended the statewide mask order after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks.
The amended order allows businesses to operate at 100% occupancy without the need of social distancing or staff wearing masks, if staff is fully vaccinated. Businesses can still require masks and social distancing if they prefer.
The state order also still requires individuals age 11 and older to wear a mask in certain settings, including schools and child care centers.
“However, fully vaccinated individuals, including vaccinated children age 16-18 in a classroom, cohort or other group of children, may remove masks where the teacher(s), caregiver(s), or other staff whose primary responsibility is education or childcare have provided proof of fully completed vaccination to their employer,” according to a fact sheet issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
School districts can set their own policies within certain baseline requirements, the CDPHE also advised.
Under the revised state order, masks are also still required for:
- Unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated residents, staff and visitors to congregate care facilities, including nursing facilities, assisted living residences, intermediate care facilities, and group homes (except in situations where removal is authorized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services).
- Unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated residents, staff and visitors to jails.
- Unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated personnel in emergency medical and other healthcare settings, such as hospitals, urgent care centers and doctor’s offices.
For now, some local jurisdictions, including the city of Glenwood Springs, still have an indoor mask-use requirement in place.
The town of Carbondale’s mask ordinance continues to dovetail with the state requirements, Town Manager Jay Harrington said. However, the town board is scheduled to have a special meeting Tuesday night and may amend its local rules, he said.
Businesses can also still require masks, Long said in her report to the commissioners.
“Look at the doors on local businesses and if they still want customers to wear masks, then please respect their wishes,” Long said. “If they do not want to require masks, respect that. For vaccinated individuals, it is a person’s personal responsibility if they feel they need to be wearing a mask. This is a big step and will take some time adjusting.”
COVID-19 case numbers in Garfield County continue to go down, Long also reported.
As of Monday, the county had recorded just 21 new cases over the past week, with a test positivity rate of 2.1%.
“We don’t anticipate cases going back up, at least in the next couple months anyway,” Long said. “We do continue to offer vaccinations throughout the county whenever and however people want to receive them.”
With vaccine eligibility opening up last week to children ages 12 to 15, the county’s vaccination rate has adjusted downward. With that new age group included, as of Monday, 48,041 residents, or 53% of the county’s eligible population, had received at least one dose of the vaccine. And, 44% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.
Long told the board that the reasons that some adults are not getting the vaccine is a combination of cultural barriers, misinformation and people who are opposed to vaccinations in general.
“We also have some folks who simply want to wait and see how everything is going,” she added.
Although Garfield and other neighboring counties are relaxing their public health rules, county officials are keeping an eye on Mesa County where there’s been a recent uptick in cases, she said.
The variant spreading in India and the potential that it could begin to spread into Colorado is also a concern, she said.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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