Vail to impose outdoor mask mandate in resort villages
Mandate will apply to resort village areas, and will take effect this week
- COVID-19 virus cases in Eagle County have climbed in the past two weeks, from 222 to 284 cases per 100,000 population.
- The goal is to reduce cases to 175 cases per 100,00 people.
- Six county residents have been hospitalized in the past two weeks.
- Investigations show the biggest concern is spreading the virus at private gatherings.
The Vail Town Council in August was closely split against an outdoor mask mandate in the resort villages. Things have changed.
Due to a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in Eagle County and across Colorado, councilmembers Tuesday agreed to impose an outdoor mask mandate in the town’s resort villages.
The mandate, approved on a 6-1 vote, with councilmember Jenn Bruno dissenting, will be imposed this week as part of the Town Manager’s emergency authorization.
The move came following presentations by Eagle County Public Health Director Heath Harmon and Breckenridge Assistant Town Manager Shannon Haynes.
Harmon told councilmembers that the recent increase in new cases may bring new mandated restrictions from state public health officials.
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That spread is impacting schools, families and the economy, Harmon said.
Eagle County over the past few weeks is seeing four to six classrooms per week moved to remote learning, Harmon said.
And, he added, one kid out of class means at least one parent will be home with that child, and, presumably, home from work.
The new cases also aren’t being well tracked. Over the past two weeks, 54% of people with new cases don’t know the source of their exposure to the virus. In addition, Harmon said a lot of virus transmission is happening due to social gatherings in private homes, as well as close contact among family members.
Staying home when sick — or exposed — is essential, Harmon said. But, he added, “we still see people going into public venues,” when they should be home.
A ‘narrow opportunity’
Harmon said the county has a “narrow opportunity” to change to the course of the current infection trend.
That’s where the outdoor mask mandate comes into play.
Haynes told councilmembers that Breckenridge began its mask mandate in May. That requirement also included a number of signs around the downtown core.
Besides the regulation and signs, the town in August rolled out an ambassador program.
With all that, Haynes said Breckenridge still hasn’t issued any citations for mandate violations.
During the council’s discussion of a mandate for Vail, Councilmember Jen Mason asked Haynes if Breckenridge officials would impose the mandate again after the town’s experience over the summer.
“We had that conversation,” Haynes said. “Everyone said ‘we want to keep it in place.’”
Vail Mayor Dave Chapin, a minority partner in Vendetta’s restaurant, said people in Vail Village he’s been talking to have been asking for a mandate.
Councilmember Brian Stockmar, who has long advocated for an outdoor mask mandate, noted that enforcement of a mandate would be difficult. He asked Haynes if the Breckenridge mandate brought “a sense of cooperation” from people.
“That’s accurate,” Haynes said.
Vail Municipal Judge Buck Allen said he believes a mandate in the town’s resort villages “could help,” especially if it was accompanied by plenty of educational signs.
Convinced of the need
Councilmembers said they’re now convinced of the need for an outdoor mandate.
“I don’t see us being in a position where can can afford” not to act, Councilmember Travis Coggin said. “This is our chance to do everything we can… This is a community effort.”
After Harmon said the county could be two weeks or so from the tight restrictions of the state’s “red” zone on its COVID dashboard, Councilmember Kevin Foley expressed his support for an outdoor mandate.
“It’s a shame we have to slap people on the side of the head,” Foley said. “But if we’re shut down, we’re not viable.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com.