Avon mask mandate comes with a dose of disappointment in tourists, county commissioners

Crowds gather in Avon on June 23, 2020. On June 30, the town council passed an emergency ordinance, requiring people to wear masks in indoor public spaces in Avon.
John LaConte |

In approving an ordinance requiring people to wear masks in indoor public spaces on Tuesday, Avon Town Council members said they were disappointed with Eagle County for not passing a countywide mask requirement. 

“I’m very, very disappointed that Eagle County has not taken the lead on this, and has left it to us to struggle over it,” said council member Tamra Underwood. 

“You lead by action, and Eagle County is not taking the action, which I’m a little upset about,” said council member Chico Thuon. “And I think we need to be the leaders in this.”

Eagle County Public Health Director Heath Harmon attended the meeting, telling the Avon Town Council it has the full support of Eagle County Public Health in making masks mandatory. Harmon also acknowledged that many Eagle County residents are feeling the same way as Underwood and Thuon.

“I fully would own the fact that you’re not maybe getting as quick of a reaction from Eagle County government,” Harmon said. “It’s not that we’re not having these conversations, it’s not that we’re reluctant to think about different policies, I think what we’re trying to do is really figure out what’s the right, measured approach, to really sustain a long term, preventative measure.”

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Harmon said he understands that Avon Town Council members are hearing from their constituents and wanting to react. 

“As the leaders of a town where we have our constituents asking us please do it, why wouldn’t we do it?” Thuon said.

Unhappy with tourists

About a dozen people spoke in favor of the mask ordinance at Tuesday’s council meeting; several of the speakers referenced visitors not wearing masks. 

“We have a lot of states coming in here … especially Texas, they’re going to come in here and kill us all off,” said Avon resident Rebecca Kiser. “Their attitude is ‘Hey, I’m not going to wear a mask, it’s a political thing.’”

Terry Smith said she sees too many people in City Market and Wal-Mart not wearing masks.

“We have a lot of guests coming in here from all over the country, especially Texas, Florida and California,” she said. 

Susan Thistlethwaite told the Avon Town Council she can see people gathering in groups and not wearing masks from her home in Arrowhead. 

“The cars are from Texas, the cars are from Florida, the cars are from California,” she said. 

Brenda Himelfarb, of Avon, said despite the fact that she has tested positive for the COVID-19 antibodies, she still wears her mask. 

“I went to dinner the other night in an open area with some people from Miami,” Himelfarb said. “I got up, and I put on my mask, and she said ‘Why are you putting on your mask?’ And I said ‘In consideration of others.’”

Longtime Vail local Susan Dugan said a group of people from California asked her if they needed to wear a mask as they approached a store in Avon the other day. 

“I said no but us locals would appreciate it if you put one on, and they kind of laughed in my face and walked in,” Dugan said. 

Avon second homeowner Marjorie Hook, who lives part-time in Texas, said she decided to come to Avon because “it looks like spring break” in Texas.

“We opened everything up, and everybody started getting sick,” she said. “It’s bad, and all it’s going to take is one person from Houston to get on one of those planes, and they’re going to bring that infection up here.”

Kindness campaign

Council member Scott Prince said wearing a mask is an issue of respect, while council member Thuon said he sees masks as an issue of manners. 

“It’s something that’s very polite, I think, not to spread your germs onto other people,” Thuon said. 

Council member Jennie Fancher pointed out that not everyone can wear a mask, for health reasons, and those people deserve to be treated with respect, as well. 

“If this ordinance passes I would really like us to figure out a way to have a sign made, or a sticker … it’s the same as people being able to park in handicapped spots,” Fancher said. “People who can not wear a mask should be able to have a placard, something they wear around their neck or hold in their hand that says ‘I care about your health, but my health prohibits me from wearing a mask.’”

Fancher said she has a friend who can’t wear a mask, and people have been “downright rude and accosting” to her. 

Underwood suggested the town undertake a kindness campaign along with their new ordinance requiring masks, with kindness being directed at both the people who can and can’t wear masks. 

“Something that encourages people to be a bit more polite to each other than where this seems to be going,” Underwood said.

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